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The Anchoress

Robyn Cadwallader

An unforgettable debut set in thirteenth-century England, The Anchoress resonates profoundly with the issues facing women today.

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England, 1255: Sarah is only seventeen when she chooses to become an anchoress, a holy woman shut away in a small cell, measuring seven paces by nine, at the side of the village church. Fleeing the grief of losing a much-loved sister in childbirth and the pressure to marry, she decides to renounce the world, with all its dangers, desires and temptations, and to commit herself to a life of prayer and service to God. But as she slowly begins to understand, even the thick, unforgiving walls of her cell cannot keep the outside world away, and it is soon clear that Sarah’s body and soul are still in great danger…

Robyn Cadwallader’s powerful debut novel tells an absorbing story of faith, desire, shame, fear and the very human need for connection and touch. With a poetic intelligence, Cadwallader explores the relationship between the mind, body and spirit in Medieval England in a story that will hold the reader in a spell until the very last page.

Critic Reviews

So beautiful, so rich, so strange, unexpected and thoughtful ... I loved this book.

Elizabeth Gilbert
Critic Reviews

Cadwallader conjures ... a vivid, poetic picture of [a] world that was so dangerous for females.

Kate Saunders, The Times
Critic Reviews

This is an ambitious debut ... the prose is contemporary and clean without a shadow of medievalism ... The small scale of Sarah's world allows an exact literary appreciation of detail, often through sound and smell because Sarah can hardly see out: the sounds of a thatched roof, the smell of rain ... The classic early-modern poetic comparisons between the room, the womb and tomb are lightly carried and masterfully used at what is probably the gentle climax of the story.

Sarah Moss, Guardian
Critic Reviews

Cadwallader's debut novel is an elegant and eloquent piece of ventriloquism, her feminist speaking to us from the claustrophobia of her cold dungeon about issues that matter to us still.

Mail on Sunday

Robyn Cadwallader has published numerous, prize-winning short stories, poems and reviews, as well as a book of poetry and a non-fiction book based on her PhD thesis which explored attitudes to virginity and female agency in the Middle Ages. She lives among vineyards outside Canberra when not travelling to England for research, visiting ancient archaeological sites along the way.

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