Robyn Cadwallader’s first novel, The Anchoress, was published by Faber & Faber in the UK, Farrar Straus and Giroux in the US and Fourth Estate in Australia in 2015. She has published numerous poems, prize-winning short stories and reviews, as well as a book of poetry, i painted unafraid (Wakefield Press, 2010) and a non-fiction book based on her PhD thesis concerning attitudes to virginity and female agency in the Middle Ages. She lectured in English literature at Flinders University, teaching a range of topics, but specialising in medieval literature and creative writing. At adult education and community level she facilitated short courses on creative writing, journalling and medieval culture.
Robyn spent several periods of her childhood in England as her parents, ‘ten-pound Poms’, tried to decide which country was really home, but she is certain that, for her, it is the clear blue skies and open land of Australia, especially if it includes dogs, chooks and a couple of alpacas. She has four adult children and now lives among vineyards outside the Australian capital when not travelling to the UK for research, usually visiting a few ancient archaeological sites along the way.
The Anchoress is the extraordinary story of Sarah, a cloth-merchant’s daughter who, having committed herself to a life of prayer and service to God, resists a wealthy lord’s proposal of marriage. There were few choices for respectable women in the 13th century other than marriage and after her beloved sister Emma dies in childbirth, Sarah takes the extreme decision to become an anchoress, a holy woman permanently enclosed in a small cell at the side of the village church. A woman’s body was considered a strange and dangerous thing, sinful and weak, inflaming the lust of men and hazardous during childbirth and Sarah hopes to keep herself safe, in refuge. But even the thick unforgiving walls of her cell cannot keep the outside world away and it is soon clear that her body and soul are still in great danger.
‘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
Shortlisted for the 2016 ABIA Awards in both the fiction and debut fiction categories, The Anchoress, was also shortlisted for the Indies in the best debut category.