“Robyn Cadwallader fashions words with the same delicate, colourful intensity that her 14th-century illuminators brought to their illustrated manuscripts.” SARAH DUNANT
From the author of the internationally acclaimed novel The Anchoress – hailed by the New York Times Book Review as “finely drawn… a considerable achievement”-comes a profound and moving historical novel about the importance of creativity and the power of connection”.
In London, 1321, at a time of political upheaval, three people are drawn together in a small shop in Paternoster Row around the creation of a magnificent book, an illuminated manuscript of prayers. The book has been commissioned by a wealthy noblewoman, Lady Mathilda Fitzjohn, as a status symbol to showcase her family’s improving station.
John Dancaster begins work on the manuscript along with his wife Gemma, a talented illuminator in her own right, although she must hide her skill as the guild forbids women. Into their lives walks the mysterious Will Asshe, a gifted artist, but a man hiding a shadowy past.
As the baronial revolt increases tensions within London and Lady Mathilda has to grapple with her changing fortunes once her husband rides off to war, completing the book becomes a fraught task. Even though the commission has seemed to answer the aspirations of each of these people, their own desires and ambitions threaten its completion.
In poetic and transportive prose, Cadwallader illuminates the roiling and turbulent world of the early fourteenth century in a compelling story of power, status and the role of women in a forgotten time.
Praise for The Anchoress:
“So beautiful, so rich, so strange, unexpected and thoughtful-also suspenseful. I loved this book.” Elizabeth Gilbert, author of City of Girls
“A detailed, sensuous and richly imagined shard of the past.” Geraldine Brooks, author of People of the Book