The Anchoress

Robyn Cadwallader

The Anchoress
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The Anchoress

Robyn Cadwallader

From a remarkable new Australian author comes The Anchoress, a story set in the thirteenth century within the confines of a stone cell measuring seven paces by nine. Tiny in scope but universal in themes, it is a wonderful, wholly compelling fictional achievement.


Set in the twelfth century, The Anchoress tells the story of Sarah, 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 writes:  ‘Who was she? Why did she choose enclosure? Was she afraid, excited, certain, doubtful? What about her family? And what would this small dark place be like as a home? In my mind, I went inside the cell.  What was her experience: bodily, emotionally, spiritually, mentally? She was no longer just a weird idea; she was a woman. Sarah.  My anchoress.’

Geraldine Brooks writes: ‘Robyn Cadwallader does the real work of historical fiction, creating a detailed, sensuous and richly imagined shard of the past. She has successfully placed her narrator, the anchoress, in that  tantalizing, precarious, delicate realm: convincingly of her own distant era, yet emotionally engaging and vividly present to us in our own.’

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