Authors: Salley Vickers
A PLUME BOOK
MISS GARNET'S ANGEL
is a former university professor of literature and a Jungian psychotherapist.
Miss Garnet's Angel
, her first novel, was a book club favorite and an international bestseller. She lives in London and is currently a Royal Literary Fund fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge, UK. Her latest novel is
The Cleaner of Chartres
Miss Garnet's Angel
Miss Garnet's Angel
is a most impressive debut, and one eagerly looks forward to Vickers's next book.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Charmingâ¦subtle and discerningâ¦This beguiling redemptive novel has a touch of the miraculous.”
The Orlando Sentinel
“A lovely book, an affecting story of loss, personal exploration, and redemption.”
The Denver Post
“Vickers has taken myth, religion, and secular humanism and turned them into substantial life-affirming fiction.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer
“The novel alights in the heart softly, with rustling wings, and a reader cannot help but be enchanted by Miss Garnet's beautifully decaying Venice.”
The Baltimore Sun
“A beautifully crafted, enjoyable novel in which the flutter of angel wings is never saccharine or sentimental.”
“Decorous, very kind, very funny. I knew as I read it that I would want to read it againâ¦. Barbara Pym fans please note.”
âJohn Bayley, author of
Elegy for Iris
“A finely spun tale.”
The Seattle Times
“In quiet, careful prose this first novel gives old-fashioned satisfactions.”
The Dallas Morning News
Published by the Penguin Group
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First published by Carroll & Graf Publishers, a Division of Avalon Publishing Group Incorporated, 2000
This paperback edition published by Plume, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2013
Copyright Â© Salley Vickers, 2000
All rights reserved. No part of this product may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
For Grace Fredericks, with love and gratitude
âIf some people really see angels, where others see
empty space, let them paint the angelsâ¦'
The peculiar charm and poetry of The Book of Tobit has endeared it to artists through the ages; many people will have seen paintings of the boy carrying a fish, accompanied by a dog and an angel, without recognising the source of these images.
In my retelling of the tale I have retained certain anachronistic features of the original, but the variationsâimaginative reconstructions of the story's sourcesâare my own, and for those I must take responsibility. To the anonymous author, or authors, however, I most gratefully acknowledge my debt.
eath is outside life but it alters it. It leaves a hole in the fabric of things which those who are left behind try to repair. Perhaps it is because of this we are minded to feast at funerals and it is said that certain children are conceived on the eve of a departure, lest the separation of the partners be permanent. When in ancient stories heroes die, the first thing their comrades do, having made due observances to the gods, is sit and eat. Then they travel on, challenging, with their frail vitality, the large enigma of non-being.
When Miss Garnet's friend Harriet died, Miss Garnet decided to spend six months abroad. For Miss Garnet, who was certainly past child-bearing years and had lost the only person
she ever ate with, the decision to travel was a bold one. Her expeditions abroad had been few and for the most part tinged with apprehension. As a young woman straight from college she had volunteered, while teaching the Hundred Years' War, to take a school party to CrÃ©cy. On that occasion she had become flustered when, behind her back but audibly, the boys had mocked her accent and had intimated (none too subtly) that she had brought them to France in order to forge a liaison with the large, sweating, white-faced coach driver.
âMademoiselle from ArmentiÃ¨res,'
they had sung hilariously in the back of the coach.
âMademoiselle from ArmentiÃ¨res. Hasn't had sex for forty years!'
And as she had attempted to convey to the coach driver the time she considered it prudent to start back for Calais, wildly and suggestively they had chorused,
âInky pinky parley vous!'
The experience had left its mark on Miss Garnet's teaching as well as on her memory. Essentially a shy person, her impulses towards cordiality with her pupils, never strong in the first place, were dealt a blow. She withdrew, acquired a reputation for strictness, even severity, and in time became the kind of teacher who, if not loved, was at least respected. Even latterly, when in terms of pupils' taunts
Mademoiselle from ArmentiÃ¨res
would be considered very small beer, no member of Miss Garnet's classes ever thought publicly to express a view about her intimate life.
Julia Garnet and Harriet Josephs had lived together for more than thirty years. Harriet had answered Julia's advertisement
in the National Union of Teachers' monthly journal. âQuiet, professional female sought to share small West London flat. No smokers. No pets.'