Debut Novel: The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader

Imagine my excitement this morning when I opened an email from Harper Collins Australia to discover a debut novel from an Australian author. The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader won the Varuna LitLink NSW Byron Bay Unpublished Manuscript Award in 2010 and has been released in February this year by various publishers, Harper Collins Australia included. It will be released in the USA and France in May. Currently available from Australian booksellers as an ebook or paperback.

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 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 will appeal to readers who loved Hannah Kent's bestselling Burial Rites.' Caroline Baum

The simplicity of the cover masks the complexity of the theme. This book is definitely one for my reading pile and will be an excellent read for the Australian Women Writers 2015 Reading Challenge. My copy of The Anchoress has been ordered and hopefully is now on its way to my mail box. What a great start to a Thursday morning!


  1. I've really been looking forward to this book (and not just because of the protagonist's name!). I'm curious to see how the author works within such a constrained setting. Mary Sharratt did an excellent job with a novel that has a similar theme, Illuminations, about Hildegard von Bingen.

    1. I'm curious about that too. It would have been a challenge to write. I'm not familiar with Mary Sharratt's novel, but will add it to my wish list.

  2. I'll be interested to read your thoughts.