February 2015 Debut of the Month.
A quietly, deep and fascinating debut novel proving that communication doesn't have to be a nonsense of chatter or commotion. The author explores friendship, faith, desire, retreat and the gentle strength of women in the thirteenth century. Father Ranaulf is newly in charge of the Priory’s manuscripts and confessor for Sarah who has chosen at seventeen to become an Anchoress, shut away from the world, giving herself to prayer and service to God. Entirely captivating, Sarah’s story takes you by the hand and leads you in contemplation, through heartbreak, suffering and understanding. The author has the ability to evoke emotions with a whisper, with a suggestion, letting you reach a level of awareness alongside Sarah and Ranaulf. Clever and stimulating this is a surprisingly beautiful read. ~ Liz Robinson
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.
The author of this debut novel is an Australian academic and a medievalist, hence, presumably, her choice of subject matter. Sarah is a seventeen-year-old girl living in an English village in 1255, and, by the end of the short first chapter, she is locked in a cell measuring seven paces by nine at the side of an English church, where she will spend the rest of her life. She is not, however, completely alone by any means: she has two servants, and various priests come once a week to hear her confession. But given the constraints of its physical setting, this is a novel that takes place inside someone’s head, although there are occasional chapters written from the point-of-view of Ranulf, a monk who takes over as Sarah’s confessor during the course of the novel. The prose is quiet but thoughtful, and this is a novel to relish, whose ideas play in the mind when you have put the book down.
Publication date: 05/02/2015
Publisher: Faber & Faber Fiction an imprint of Faber & Faber
|Publication date:||5th February 2015|
|Publisher:||Faber & Faber Fiction an imprint of Faber & Faber|
|Genres:||Debuts of the Month, eBook Favourites, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction,|
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 the Australian capital when not travelling to England for research, visiting ancient archaeological sites along the way. Author photo © Che ChorleyMore About Robyn Cadwallader