Review: The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers

Title: The Cleaner of Chartres 
Author: Salley Vickers
Publisher: Viking
Published: June 27, 2013
Hardcover, 304 pages
ISBN: 978-0-670-78567-4
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher

Goodreads Summary
There is something very special about Agnes' Morel.  A quiet presence in a small French town of Chartres she can be found cleaning the framed medieval cathedral each morning and doing odd jobs for the townspeople in the afternoon. No one knows where she comes from or why.  Not Abbe' Paul, who discovered her one morning  twenty years ago, sleeping on the porch, and not Alain Fleury, the irreverent young restorer, who works along side of her each day and whose attention she catches with her tawny eyes and elusive manner. 
She has transformed everyone's life in her own subtle way, yet no one suspects the dark secrets of her past.

My thoughts:
Twenty years ago she appeared in the cloisters of the  ancient cathedral of Notre Dame, in the medieval town of Chartres in France.  To the town's people it seemed like she had always been there - a harmless presence, touching their lives in subtle ways.  But no one knows anything about her past.
One day she is asked to take on the cleaning of the cathedral by Abbe' Paul, who first discovered her sleeping on the north porch.  Working under the light of the magnificent stained glass and cleaning the famous labyrinth, Agnes' finds inner peace.
Soon she is helping Professor Jones and advising Philippe Nevers about his disturbed sister.  And with her colorful clothes and elusive manner she attracts the attention of Alain Fleury, the irreverent young man who is helping restore the cathedral.
But Agnes's new position provokes the jealousy of elderly Madam Beck and her friend Madam Picot.  Madam Beck, a long divorced woman of self importance, keeps a close eye on all who pass by her window and has the latest information on all.  One day a specter from Agnes''s past arrives, causing ugly speculations and rumors to fly and Agnes' finally is forced to confront her past and we learn the tramas that first brought her to Chartres.
This is a charming book to read.  Not normally my genre, but I found it a refreshing change of pace.
The old town of Chartres has kept the slow pace as a more modern town surrounds it has the hustle and bustle.
As the story unfolded, I felt like a guest watching all, being fearful as not to impose.  The characters were real.  Madam Beck reminded me of an aunt of mine.  Agnes' seemed fragile, eager to please, but there seemed to be a hidden strength emerge when all seemed lost.  Alain Fleury was a knight in shining armor, coming to her rescue in more ways than one. 
A wonderful cast of characters, a beautiful medieval town, makes this visit to France unforgettable.