Miss Garnet's Angel is a voyage of discovery, a novel about Venice but also the rich story of the explosive possibilities of change in all of us at any time. Julia Garnet is a teacher. Just retired, she is left a legacy which she uses by leaving her orderly life and going to live -- in winter -- in an apartment in Venice. Its beauty, its secret ...
Miss Garnet's Angel is a voyage of discovery, a novel about Venice but also the rich story of the explosive possibilities of change in all of us at any time. Julia Garnet is a teacher. Just retired, she is left a legacy which she uses by leaving her orderly life and going to live -- in winter -- in an apartment in Venice. Its beauty, its secret corners and treasures, and its people overwhelm a lifetime of reserve and caution. Above all, she's touched by the all-prevalent spirit of the Angel, Raphael. Twinned with her journey is that of Tobias. The father, growing old and blind, is determined that his son, accompanied by an appropriate companion, should recover the family debt and allow his father to die in peace. The traveller, masquerading as a merchant -- by common legend -- is Raphael. The two stories interweave with parents and landladies, restorers and priests, American tourists and ancient travellers abounding. The result is an enormously satisfying journey of the spirit -- and Julia Garnet is a character to treasure.
This is the best book I've read all summer. The intimate description of an elderly spinster opening up to sensuality and the metaphysical realm was nuanced and believable, yet the book had a magical quality to it as well.
Sep 10, 2008
Trying too hard to be spiritual?
I decided to read this book on holiday because I had heard its author, Salley Vickers, talking about the way she writes, at a seminar. I found her intriguing and interesting and therefore opened the book in great anticipation.
Unfortunately I felt mildly disappointed by the time I finished the book, which I really didn't want to be, as I had taken to the author, and was hoping it would be a stupendous read. Perhaps that was the trouble, my expectations had been built up unrealistically.
I liked the theme of the book, and the central character, Miss Garnet. There was a very strong sense of place and also of Miss Garnet's growing awareness and spiritual unfolding, but I found some of the other characters unconvincing, especially the 'twins' . The plot was fast - moving and unpredictable, but I found myself becoming a bit irritated by all the references to angels, which I felt became contrived and a bit 'precious'.
I generally like books that have a kind of magical realism like this one, but I thought Salley Vickers was perhaps 'trying too hard' with this element. I would have liked more subtlety. I have known others who rave about Vickers' work so I don't want to be too heavy in my criticism, and I might give her other books a go later ( but not yet.....)
Perhaps this is just a very personal reaction - I wouldn't dissuade others from reading this book but think it merits 'robust discussion' - eg in a book club or similar.
Publishers Weekly, 2001-02-05 Guardian angels have attained such trendy status in American popular fiction that it's refreshing to read Vickers, a writer from across the Atlantic, whose subtle depiction of a life touched by a heavenly spirit carries not a hint of cliche. Her debut novel is an unpretentious gem of a book that charts the late coming-of-age of Miss Julia Garnet, a retired English school teacher who spends six months in Venice after her lifelong companion, Harriet, dies. Venice has a magical effect on reserved Julia: a dyed-in-the-wool Communist, she relaxes in her antipathy toward religion, and even begins to visit the local church. There, she becomes enamored of a series of paintings that tells the story of the Apocryphal book of Tobit, a tale that mixes elements of Judaism with the religion of Zoroaster. In the story , young Tobias travels to Medea, part of the Persian Empire, to collect a debt for his father, blind Tobit. He is accompanied on his journey by a hired guide who turns out to be the Angel Raphael. As Julia learns more about Tobias's trek, she embarks upon a soul-altering journey of her own. She falls in love with an art dealer, Carlo, and befriends Sarah and Toby, twins working on the restoration of a Venetian chapel. When Toby disappears suddenly, after discovering a priceless Renaissance painting, Julia finds out that neither Carlo nor the twins are exactly what they seem-but the Angel Raphael's watchful spirit will help good prevail. (Feb.) Forecast: This touching novel, a sleeper hit in Britain, should win American fans eager for a treatment of religious themes without the gooey sentiment that often accompanies the topic of angels. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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