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Miss Garnet's Angel
ISBN 0006514219 / 9780006514213 / 0-00-651421-9
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There is something very old-fashioned and reassuring about Sally Vickers' novel Miss Garnet's Angel. The themes, self-discovery and redemption have the air of a bygone age, despite the novel being set in contemporary Venice in a world of holiday apartment lets and Pizza Express-funded restoration works. Julia Garnet is a middle-aged woman who has been practising economies of the spirit for years. Hers is a closed-in world, dusty with Marx's theories and when her friend and flatmate of 30 years dies Julia decides to spend the six winter months in Venice to recuperate from her loss. Miss Garnet is a dignified, brusque heroine and Sally Vickers' prose is likewise unruffled and controlled. Miss Garnet's epiphanies are as quiet and subtle as the "oro pallido" (pale gold) light in early Italian Art because, of course, art plays a part in this Venetian tale of emotional reawakening. Julia is moved by the depiction of Raphael in Guardis Tobias and the Angel: "something rusty and hard shifted deep inside Julia Garnet as she stood absorbing the vivid dewy painting and the unmistakable compassion in the angel's bright glance." She falls in love with Carlo, an art historian with crinkly eyes, white hair and a moustache. There are trials and tribulations to be undergone, Julia must unlearn all her old regimented ways of life, and this brings about heart ache and hurt. However, Vickers handles this with delicate sympathy, giving Julia Garnet a new sensitive view of the world, and the reader a resonant story of transformation. --Eithne Farry [via]