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Miss Garnet's Angel

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  2,193 Ratings  ·  278 Reviews
After the death of her longtime friend and flatmate, retired British history teacher Julia Garnet does something completely out of character: She takes a six-month rental on a modest appartamento in Venice. An atheist, a Communist, and a virgin, Julia finds herself falling beneath the seductive spell of the city's intoxicating beauty and sensual religiosity. She befriends
Paperback, 342 pages
Published April 2nd 2002 by Plume (first published 2000)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jul 22, 2012 kp rated it it was amazing
A friend recently said to me, "So many things are not worth talking about." He was referring to the quiet power of the understated, and the British have a tradition of novels about the still small voices, and the profound yet ordinary emotions, that sometimes get short shrift amid the fireworks of our soap-opera culture. From Jane Austen E.M Fortsre to Kazuo Ishiguro, these novels remind us of how interior and how subtle much of our emotional experience actually is. In writers like Barbara Pym, ...more
Aug 21, 2015 Marfita rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: fans of Dan Brown who suddenly realized what a lousy writer he is
Shelves: omg-what-is-this
I went into this with all my warning lights flashing: it's gonna be spiritual (and I'm not), "oh god, there's gonna be romance" (ew); and "she's gonna see angels, isn't she?" This was probably unfair to the author, but that hasn't stopped me before.
Miss Julia Garnet is a rather stupid woman who becomes fascinated by a story from the Apocrypha when she could be enjoying the endless art of Venice. She also has very bad "gay-dar." Vickers tries to interweave these two stories but as the outcome of
Mar 19, 2011 Sarah rated it liked it
Miss Garnet's Angel is the gentle story of Julia Garnet, a retired teacher, and her transformation in old age when she moves to Venice for six months following the death of her life-long friend. Out of her suburban English comfort zone, she allows people, paintings and the place itself to touch her soul for the first time. There's much to like, including Julia Garnet herself, and the Venice backdrop is atmospheric and evocative.

However, having read other Vickers' novels and thus armed with high
Peg Lafrance
Jul 29, 2013 Peg Lafrance rated it it was amazing
I found this book at a used bookstore in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, while on vacation. I thought the subject - Venice, an English spinster, life changes - attractive. But the blurb reviews really recommended it to me. Penelope Fitzgerald, Joanna Trollope, and Anita Brookner all liked it. Atlantic Monthly mentioned similarities to Barbara Pym.

The book incorporates a story from the Apocrypha. It does it subtly, unfolding the biblical tale as the story of Miss Garnet's life blossoms. The chara
Kathleen Dixon
Jan 23, 2012 Kathleen Dixon rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
A friend recommended Salley Vickers to me, and most especially this book. It’s often said that history repeats itself, and I have enjoyed a number of books where this is the theme, or where archetypal themes play out in people’s lives (I’m remembering Beauty, by Sheri Tepper).

Julia Garnet is a thoroughly straightlaced and cautious elderly woman who was a schoolteacher and is now very recently retired. Her flatmate, Harriet, dies 2 days after they both retired, and the elderly cat, that has lived
Jan 19, 2010 trishtrash rated it liked it
Shelves: art, religion
Miss Julia Garnet, spinster and virgin, travels to Venice after the death of her friend Harriet. She discovers more than solace there, something more akin to an awakening. It’s a beautiful premise and is artfully executed, and Venice is the ideal, sumptuous setting for this intriguing mix of stories that Julia’s tale entwines with – my favourite character is the wise and delightful Monsignore Giuseppe, whose presence brings a kindness and affability to the story which I really loved, but while ...more
Delia O' Riordan
Sep 15, 2012 Delia O' Riordan rated it it was amazing
Julia Garnet is sixty years old, emotionally repressed, sexually inexperienced and has spent her life in almost sacrificial frugality. She is also the amazed heir to her former - even more frugal - housemate's legacy. Harriet seems to have had a secret: a genius for investment! Who knew? Certainly not Julia Garnet.

Both Julia and Harriet were dutifully pro-labour, even deriving a sense of moral superiority - or at least moral purity - from the connection. But beneath the austere surface, Julia Ga
Miss Garnet's Angel is a clever and beautiful tale infused with a touch of mysticism and wonder. Miss Garnet is a very rational retired teacher with communist sympathies who late in life discovers that there is far more to life than her narrow outlook. As Miss Garnet's prejudices are gradually swept away she discovers friends in unexpected places and becomes increasingly caught up in the story behind a old painting of Tobias and the Angel.

Sally Vickers has once again woven a story that question
May 27, 2014 Sue rated it it was amazing
An utter joy, a tale of love in Venice, the timelessness of mankind and the power of symbolism and belief. Want to read it again now I've come to the end. More perfectly, I would like to read it again - in Venice....
Annie Lawler
Jan 22, 2016 Annie Lawler rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this book with its mix of religious and artistic interest, set against the backdrop of beautiful Venice, from the eyes of a middle-aged woman finding new freedoms and friends. A bit of intrigue, lovely angels - very comforting and warm.
Jan 22, 2015 Patti rated it liked it
Disappointing. Vickers writes evocatively about Venice (I'm planning a trip and booked the book for that reason) and the story of Tobit is told in an affecting way. But the modern story is mawkish and flat.
Oct 15, 2016 Gail rated it liked it
I bought this novel as a companion read for a trip to Venice; a city that has such a deep literary and artistic history.
It's a little clunky and naïve and not as well written as it could be, but the story, like the city it's set in, captures one's heart and imagination.
Without the recent physical experience of seeing Venice for the first time, I doubt this book would have been quite so interesting. The backdrop and local detail, when experienced for oneself, certainly adds to the books alchemi
M.M. Bennetts
Nov 12, 2010 M.M. Bennetts rated it it was amazing
This review was originally published in The Christian Science Monitor.

Impelled into action by the unexpected passing of her closest and only friend, Harriet, the staid retired teacher, Miss Julia Garnet, lets her London flat and goes to Venice, renting a small apartment in the Campo Angelo Raffaele for six months. Thus opens Salley Vickers’ quiet, rich, benign and gentle novel, Miss Garnet’s Angel.

There, Venice–la Serenissima–city of bridges, barges, campaniles, Renaissance art and palaces, of b
Mar 04, 2016 Stephanie rated it did not like it
About once or twice a year, I get stuck in a really bad book rut. Nothing appeals to me or manages to pull me in. I carry a book to and from work in my backpack, but never bother to open it throughout the day. I can't concentrate. Usually this is triggered by a really bad reading experience (I'M LOOKING AT YOU, Eva Luna
You wouldn't think that Miss Garnet's Angel would be the book to get me out of my slump. It was definitely not SO GOOD or SO WONDERFUL, but it did keep me engaged (ish. More on th
Philip Dickinson
Dec 02, 2013 Philip Dickinson rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Miss Garnet's Angel began promisingly. The bereavement of a close friend and the move to Venice seemed like the start of something very exotic. I've been to Venice and read up on some of it's history so I was keen to see what strangeness Salley Vickers would brew up. Dark intrigue and who knows what. The descriptions took me back to that fantastic city and I was always eager to see where Julia would wander next.

I liked the way Salley put Julia's life together and built up a picture of what thos
May 03, 2016 Charles rated it really liked it
There are some great short reviews written on Salley Vickers' surprising 'Miss Garnet's Angel' here on Goodreads and elsewhere already, so what I am hoping is that my part will at least complement some of them. There is Penelope Fitzgerald's spot-on analysis of the 'Miss Garnet's Angel' as a "subtle, unexpected and haunting" contemporary novel. Another reviewer on this site has befittingly commented that it is "sad and hopeful at the same time."

There is a reason why so much has been written abo
Jul 24, 2012 Michelle rated it liked it
(3.5 stars) Miss Garnet, a recently retired English school teacher does one of the more impulsive things in her life by renting a flat in Venice after the unexpected death of her flat-mate, Harriet. She surprises herself by making friends and becoming intrigued by not only the architecture, but the churches, despite her long time involvement with communism. Her new companions include an American couple, her land lady and boy related to her, and two young people who are restoring a chapel near ...more
Oct 15, 2009 Sandy rated it really liked it
This is a surprising book.... A story of personal growth late in life and an awakening to spirtiual things in an unexpected way. Miss Garnet, a devote communist, enters the scene as a strict, stern and rather miserly old school marm, one who has never left anything to chance & who has always been caustic and cynical from the sound of it. She uncharacteristically goes to Venice after her life long housemate dies and here she discovers in herself unexpected capacity to see things anew, to make ...more
Oct 22, 2015 Sophie rated it it was ok
I started reading this book years ago. Unable to get into it (didn't like the voice), I put it aside. Picked it up again last week and had another try at it: once I got to the dual timeline I started enjoying it more. I think my problem is with the story about Julia Garnet, which just never worked. It's got some lovely elements (archangels, Venice, human fallibility, affairs of the heart) but somehow these fail to catch fire. I suspect I may be alone in my lack of response to the voice of ...more
Jun 16, 2009 linda rated it really liked it
Part travel log, part fiction, part bible story, interwoven so beautifully. Miss Garnet coming of age as a spinster in Venice, very touching but not sappy and although it's about someone finding her faith one is not hit over the head with the religious aspect of the book. One I will surely read again.
May 12, 2008 Featherbooks rated it really liked it
Prim, English spinster travels to Venice where she loses her preconceptions and finds her angel. I liked it a lot and find it hard to top this review
Aug 01, 2008 Cecily rated it really liked it
Well written, but overrated. Leaves a slightly nasty taste (like Waugh's Handful of Dust). The parallels with the story of Tobit probably work better second time round. Even better if you're familiar with Venice, though I didn't notice the map!

Mar 13, 2009 Charlotte rated it really liked it
At last a wonderful book. Loved this, the story of the awakening of a retired spinster, who travels to Venice, and becomes fascinated with the angel Raphael. A story with many layers.
Jennifer Louden
Aug 09, 2013 Jennifer Louden rated it it was amazing
My very favorite Salley Vickers book. I think of it so often. Such subtle spiritual truth revealed.
Oct 28, 2016 Skyring marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I registered a book at!
Sherri Robinson
Dec 03, 2016 Sherri Robinson rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed re-reading this book because of the descriptions, philosophy, and theology.
Jan 05, 2013 Ben rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Miss Garnet's Angel is a book of luminous beauty which I have known and loved for 12 years, and which always reminds me how to see goodness beyond the immediately obvious. The book's heroine visits Venice for her first time, late in life, and discovers not just the treasures and beauties of the city but something deeper and more real within herself than she has ever known before. It is not too fanciful to say that in Venice, Julia Garnet discovers her soul.

But there is more to it than that. Ther
Mar 03, 2012 Garet rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jenny Whitehead
Sep 23, 2016 Jenny Whitehead rated it it was amazing
I just loved this book, the story of Miss Garnet's exploration of Venice running in tandem with the story of Tobias and the Archangel Raphael and their amazing journey as told in the Apocrypha.Wonderful!!!!
Retired spinster Julia Garnet has been an uninspiring history teacher and lives a narrow life in an Ealing flat with her friend Harriet. When Harriet dies, the unexpected void causes Miss Garnet to suddenly decide to live in Venice for several months. The move leads to Miss Garnet meeting new people and realising that she has been blind to people and opportunities. The interwoven parallel apocryphal story of Tobias and the Angel Raphael share the theme of overcoming blindness and accepting ...more
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Salley Vickers was born in Liverpool, the home of her mother, and grew up as the child of parents in the British Communist Party. She won a state scholarship to St Paul’s Girl’s School and went on to read English at Newnham College Cambridge.

She has worked, variously, as a cleaner, a dancer, an artist’s model, a teacher of children with special needs, a university teacher of literature, and a psy
More about Salley Vickers...

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“Then it was she saw him again. On the upper reaches of the scaffolding, a sheerness of presence, no more. It was as if he took the space from the air about him and against the darkness was etched, like the brightness which seeps through a door ajar, hinting at nameless, fathomless brilliances beyond, the slightest margin of light. Impossible to look too closely, but some way below, beneath where the long feet might have rested, she made out the girl's huddled shape, her arms folded over her head like some small broken-winged, storm-tossed bird.” 1 likes
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