The Anchoress

Cadwallader, Robyn

From a remarkable new Australian author comes THE ANCHORESS, a story set 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 …

Telling an absorbing story of faith, desire, shame, fear and the very human need for connection and touch, THE ANCHORESS is both mesmerising and thrillingly unpredictable.

‘Sarah’s story is so beautiful, so rich, so strange, unexpected and thoughtful – also suspenseful. I loved this book.’ Elizabeth Gilbert, author of EAT, PRAY, LOVE

‘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.’ Geraldine Brooks

‘An intense, atmospheric and very assured debut, this is one of the most eagerly anticipated novels of the year … this one will appeal to readers who loved Hannah Kent’s bestselling BURIAL RITES.’ Caroline Baum

‘Absorbing and finely structured .. surprisingly suspenseful … The contemplative tone of this beautiful novel leaves behind a feeling of calm and restoration, and a deeper sense of the power of the written word.’ Australian Book Review

‘Cadwallader has chosen a rich subject, for while a story located in a single small room might sound claustrophobic, this is in fact what heightens Sarah’s observations. It is precisely this limitation that drives the narrative – in the same way it does in Emma Donoghue’s Room and Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl … Cadwallader’s writing evokes a heightened attention to the senses: you might never read a novel so sensuous yet unconcerned with romantic love. For this alone it is worth seeking out. But also because The Anchoress achieves what every historical novel attempts: reimagining the past while opening a new window – like a squint, perhaps – to our present lives.’ Sydney Morning Herald

‘Affecting … finely drawn … a considerable achievement.’ Sarah Dunant, The New York Times

The Anchoress was highly commended in the 2016 ACT Book of the Year Award, and winner of the People’s Choice Award