England, 1255. What could drive a girl on the cusp of womanhood to lock herself away from the world forever?
Sarah is just 17 when she chooses to become an anchoress, a holy woman shut away in a cell that measures only seven by nine paces, at the side of the village church. Fleeing the grief of losing a much-loved sister in childbirth as well as pressure to marry the local lord's son, she decides to renounce the world - with all its dangers, desires, and temptations - and commit herself to a life of prayer.
But it soon becomes clear that the thick, unforgiving walls of Sarah's cell cannot protect her as well as she had thought. With the outside world clamoring to get in and the intensity of her isolation driving her toward drastic actions, even madness, her body and soul are still in grave danger. When she starts hearing the voice of the previous anchoress whispering to her from the walls, Sarah finds herself questioning what she thought she knew about the anchor-hold and about the village itself.
With the lyricism of Nicola Griffith's Hild and the vivid historical setting of Hannah Kent's Burial Rites, Robyn Cadwallader's powerful debut novel tells an absorbing story of faith, desire, shame, fear, and the very human need for connection and touch. Compelling, evocative, and haunting, The Anchoress is both quietly heartbreaking and thrillingly unpredictable.
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It held my interest and was easy to listen to. It helped make the time fly by when I was reorganizing and cleaning my kitchen.
It reminded me a bit of Pillars of the Earth and The Chalice because some of the conflicts and character types were the same.
They were both engaging.
I finished it in two days, which is a good sign.
I thought this book would show Sarah's entire life as an anchoress. Instead the story roughly spans a year. Many things happen in the town that Sarah lives in during that year so while some of the story focuses on Sarah adapting to her new life, a good deal of it also focuses on what is going on in the village.
The story ends in a decent spot, but I couldn't help but wonder if it will have a sequel. Some of the story lines felt unfinished. Then again, it could be the author's way of showing that "life goes on" and "the story never ends".
I enjoyed listening to this book. It didn't move me, but it did entertain me. The characters were likable and Sarah's life is definitely unique. Even though Sarah stays in one place for the story, the book doesn't grow stale.
I would like to read more by the author.