Chartres; Clean and then we Freeze

The Cleaner of Chartres by Sally Vickers

This summer we actually went to visit Chartres during our trip round Northern France and was absolutely charmed by the town.

A medieval city on many river with houses built such that a river flowed under them or by their side with an old landing stage and steps down. Many many bridges and narrow windy streets.

P1020068 P1020059 Chartres views

The cathedral too is delightfulP1020071 P1020080 Chartres Cathedral

and I was thrilled that on the day that we visited the labyrinth was uncovered as I had read about it some time ago and had so wanted to walk it. So walk it I did. But not barefoot!

Progressing the Labyrinth

The Cathedral is also famous for its Rose window and stained glass.


The book was read for our book group and I had no idea what to expect but in fact it proved to be a really good read. Not one with a fast pace or thrills or murders or any other stuff like that but a story of vices and virtues in humankind and how they can be manifested in small ways in all manner of people from nuns and priests to café owners and painters. Redemption also figured as a theme.

The book was written about one woman – the cleaner – but told her life in two streams – the past and the present – gradually uncovering the truth about her background and birth.

The theme of ‘two’ or twin-ness went through the book in characters – 2 gossips, 2 nuns, 2 priests, 2 painters, 2 earrings and so on. which was an interesting aspect once discovered.

There was also symbolism of numbers which was mentioned in a number of places. The symbolism of 7 for the Christian and Abrahamic and old pagan religions. In one place it was quoted:

  •  7 Athenian children were sent every 9 years (see also the symbolism of 9) to the Minotaur; 7 days of the week;
  • 3 is the number of the spirit, or the Trinity, 4 is the physical number – earth, wind, fire, air; 4 corners of the earth;
  • the medieval curriculum was divided into 2 parts – the Trivium – grammar, rhetoric and logic, and the Quadrivium – geometry, arithmetic, astronomy and music;
  • 7 liberal arts;
  • 7 deadly sins;
  • 7 last trumpets at the end of time;
  • 3*4=12; 3*3=9; 12 and 9 are the signs of the zodiac;;
  • 12 months of the year;
  • 12 branches to the tree in the Jesse window in the Cathedral of Chartres;
  • 9=the triple trinity;
  • there are 9 doors to the Cathedral;
  • 9 porches;
  • 9 orders of angels in 3 choirs of 3 – Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, Angels;
  • someone counted ow many times the number 7 was used in the bible (I’m not sure if it was Old Testament or New or both together) and it was 777.

So I would really recommend this book.


The Freezer: 2402 AD by Timothy S. Johnston

A real page turner this one. Just as you think nothing more can go wrong, it does!

Set in outer space it certainly doesn’t attempt to glamorise the potential way people would live or work. It appears to be factually correct scientifically about the planetary conditions that would be experienced, but as I am not a scientist I couldn’t confirm, but it did convince me.

Some of the science potential applications were our worst nightmares realised and very much enhanced the storyline of murder, police, and how to solve crimes under unusual and extreme conditions.

The ending was a surprise and, of course, justified the book title in a different way but was a worrying possibility.


Carina Press

Again another recommendation.


Macaroni and 7 fishes and more…

shoesThe Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani

I give this book 4 stars. It had a very slow start and yet somehow you wanted to continue to read on.

It definitely made you want to join a lively and extended Italian family but then I couldn’t face the Sunday meals let alone the Feast of the 7 Fishes…

I looked this meal up on Wikipedia and also spoke to an Italian acquaintance who said that she knew it as The Vigil and had never heard of so many fish courses but she wasn’t Sicilian like the family in the story!

The Vigil takes place on Xmas Eve which for the Italians, I was informed by my friend is more important than Xmas Day.

The idea of the Feast of the Fishes is really an Italian-American invention originating in Southern Italy. It comes from the RC tradition of abstinence on Fridays and Wednesdays and Lent and the Eve of Holy Days when fish is the substitute for meat. In the US the 7 fish courses can now be as many as 9, 11 or 13!

Baccala or salted cod is a staple of these feasts as are smelts and calamari.

The symbolism of the 7 fish is due to the number. 7 is repeated 700 in the bible (not sure if this is new testament or old or both); or there are 7 sacraments; or there are 7 hills of Rome; or 7 is the number of perfection – 3=divinity (3 fold Father, Son and Holy Ghost), and 4=earth thus 3+4=7 or God on Earth or JC.

Now this all seems very fanciful to me as an excuse for a major blow-out but who am I to comment on other people’s traditions.

Back to the storyline.

It is vaguely based on the Brothers Grimm’s story about the Shoemaker and the Elves – or the saying that ‘The Cobbler’s Children go Unshod’ or ‘The shoemaker’s daughter has no shoes’.

It is a gentle story with shoes as the main element and although it turned out to be the sequel to a storyline from the ‘Big Gap’ Series I felt it could easily be read as a stand-alone novel.

I will give it 4 stars but only just – a little ore pace would have been welcome.

I also think that I disagree with a main premise in that the 1st argument a married couple has sets the tone for all following arguments – however, I can’t remember the first argument I had with my husband – so it can’t have set the tone can it?!


Paris, Second World War, and Music

A week in Paris by Rachel Hore due for publication October 2014

A slow burning but sure book that hooks you into finding out what happened next to the characters. Based on the type of events that really happened during the second world war, the story of the child and her parents and Paris really keep you waiting to hear the next part of the story.
I liked the idea of the music link-ups and really felt so sorry for all the trouble that the child went through and was astonished how balanced she ended up being, especially hearing about her ‘escapades’ during her escape from Paris and journey home to the UK.
Without giving the story away, there are two or more gentle love stories interwoven through time and Paris with the reality of life in the second world war told in a compassionate but accurate manner – no frills but truth.