Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Miss Garnet’s Angel: Salley Vickers

Several reviewers quoted on the front and back covers of this book describe it as ‘subtle’. I agree. I hadn’t, and still haven’t, come across this novel anywhere else until a friend gave it to me to read. At first I wasn’t greatly taken with it, finding the main character, Julia Garnet, somewhat boring and unsympathetic. I was prepared for some soppy tale of how she finds a guardian angel and true love in Venice, despite her age.

The story did not proceed as expected. It turned into a fascinating historical novel going back to the ancient Jewish tale of Tobias, which almost certainly had its roots in an even older tale coming from the Zoroastrians of Persia. Some of the tale of Tobias takes place in Nineveh, present day Iraq, and it’s saddening to note that Christian communities which have existed for many centuries in that region of the world (they pre-date the Muslims by a very long time) are now being forced out of their ancient homelands.

The ancient story is balanced with a modern-day parallel, and there is a pleasantly happy ending (of the kind that I might choose for myself) that doesn’t involve anything quite as unrealistic as the main character falling in love.

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