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Miss Garnet's Angel

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  1,687 ratings  ·  225 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 ...more
Paperback, 342 pages
Published April 2nd 2002 by Plume (first published 2000)
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Community Reviews

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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
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
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
Jan 11, 2010 Marfita rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of Dan Brown who suddenly realized what a lousy writer he is
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
Delia O' Riordan
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
Kathleen Dixon
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
(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 he ...more
M.M. Bennetts
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
Philip Dickinson
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
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
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
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....
Rosalind Minett
Miss Garnet, a spinster history teacher recently retired, finds her flatmate dead and her lifestyle in need of a change. She takes an apartment in Venice, and through her experiences there develops more heart, warmth and self-knowledge. It is the beauty of the architecture and the impingement of the angel Raphael upon her imagination that causes this change.

I have to remind myself that the rating system on Goodreads relates to how much we like a book rather than its objective literary quality. A
Lily Forsythe
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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.
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!

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
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.
Kelly McCloskey-Romero
Delightful! This book weaves the contemporary story of Miss Garnet, a retired schoolteacher and lonely soul, with a retelling of the Book of Tobit. After her roommate Harriet dies, Miss Garnet spends 6 months in Venice, and she awakens to the world, leaving her bitter self behind. She is entranced by the art of the city, especially statues of St. Raphael, whose story shines in the Book of Tobit. I loved the everyday way of telling this story, the way she questions herself and the way she's alway ...more
Aimee Habibullah
To be frank, I didn't like this book. The author writes patronisingly about elderly, single, retired women teachers and their feelings, emotions and experiences. You wouldn't have thought that Julia had had anything to do with young people the way the author makes her talk and interact with the twins. The story of Tobias and the angel is a separate one on its own and by interlacing it with the novel the device slows down the narrative.I almost gave up reading this novel but persevered out of a m ...more
Amanda Lane
I liked it but I didn't love it, I think it was probably a little slow paced for me. Miss Garnet is a retired spinster, when her lifelong friend dies she has an epiphany and heads off to Venice. The book isn't religious in any way but is about someone who has led a sheltered life discovering themselves. I loved the descriptive writing and it made me really want to visit Venice. The ending was unexpected and somehow it left me a bit cross with the author! Definitely not a fast on the edge of your ...more
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 chang ...more
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 s ...more
Sep 16, 2012 Norah rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Sue Brown
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 d ...more
There were some moments of greatness in this book, a tale of an British history teacher who goes to Venice for six months after her long term housemate dies suddenly. That Julia is a spinster, atheist, virgin, and Communist doesn't make much of a difference as Venice seduces her. She falls in love for the first time in her life (and no, it doesn't end like that, meets a pair of art restorers and a fair number of locals. But her real fascination is with the Archangel Raphael and the story of Tobi ...more
This is a delightful story of an english schoolteacher (history) who retires on the same day as her housemate and then is devasted by her sudden death a few months later. Julia Garnet then decides to spend some months in Venice and the story takes off. She rediscovers an old master painting of Tobias and the Angel (and dog) which is based on the book of Tobit (you need an apochrypha if you are protestant though jewish, catholic and orthodox bibles include it).

Julia's story is intermingled with S
This review originally appeared at

For someone whose background involves copious amounts of Jungian psychoanalysis, it's no surprise that Salley Vickers in her work so frequently touches on notions of the development of self, and on individual narrative journeys in order to reach a greater sense of consciousness and agency. While Vickers has in some of her work, such as the tremendously eruditeThe Other Side of You (see our review),done this by means of the presentati
Good read...may change the rating. This sucked me in right away, the best part of the beginning is the main character's unfamiliarity with new experiences and her newfound enjoyment of other people and life.The characters are all created well, but the main lady Miss Garnet is complex and honest. She has freed herself from her old life in England and her adventures in Venice, its art and religion has started to shift her mind to question everything about herself. Her notes in her journal as she t ...more
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
Jacquelynn Luben
At first sight, the latest book circle read - Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers seems comparable with another book we read, Miss Pettigrew lives for a day, another story of an elderly or middle aged lady whose life we hope is going to be transformed.

It seems immediately like a feel-good book, and in fact, initially, things go rather too swimmingly for Miss Garnet. She seems to make friends so easily in Venice, one begins to wonder why she couldn’t manage it so well in the UK.

Perhaps this is
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  • Eve Green
  • Over
  • Falling
  • Venice
  • The Conjurer's Bird
  • Stone Virgin
  • A Stopover in Venice
  • Day
  • Italian Hours
  • A Summer Bird-Cage
  • As It Is In Heaven
  • The Rose Grower
  • Cold Heaven
  • The Speech of Angels
  • A Sweet Obscurity
  • The Bay of Noon
  • The Chymical Wedding
  • The Colour Of Heaven
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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