This book was published a year ago and I have been meaning to read it for some time. It is the first novel published by this author and is an historic novel set in the thirteenth century about an Anchoress, or a holy woman who shuts herself away and prays.This seemed to me to be an unusual choice of subject for a Australian writer to be writing about, and it was the subject matter that had me intrigued – I has never heard of this type of holy person.
Robyn Cadwallader is well placed to be writing this type of story, having undertaken extensive research for her PhD that is about a particular Anchoress. While writing about this woman, Robyn wondered about anchoresses as women and what led them to make the choice to become an enclosed holy woman. It is in this way that she imagines the story of Sarah, the Anchoress of this novel, and how she chooses to become a holy woman, and her life once she is enclosed in the cell that is attached to the Church.
The personal story of seventeen year old Sarah is beautifully told and her story is very believable. By reading this tale as historic fiction, the reader is given a wonderful opportunity to learn about the daily life of not only an anchoress, but of all the other people who lived within the community of the village in the Middle Ages. The structure and hierachy of village life is clearly presented and wonderful descriptions are given of how village men and women worked, and how they lived and how the local landowner influenced their lives.