The Anchoress

The Anchoress You might think there would be nothing to tell about those four walls two windows a squint and darkness but the stones carried so many stories And they would carry my story every moment of my time

  • Title: The Anchoress
  • Author: Robyn Cadwallader
  • ISBN: 9781460752678
  • Page: 269
  • Format: Paperback
  • You might think there would be nothing to tell about those four walls, two windows, a squint and darkness, but the stones carried so many stories And they would carry my story, every moment of my time here My only witness England, 1255 Sarah is only seventeen when she chooses to become an anchoress, a holy woman shut away in a small cell, measuring seven paces by nine You might think there would be nothing to tell about those four walls, two windows, a squint and darkness, but the stones carried so many stories And they would carry my story, every moment of my time here My only witness England, 1255 Sarah is 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 s powerful debut novel tells an absorbing, entirely human and compulsively readable story of faith, desire, shame, fear and the very human need for connection and touch.Powerful, evocative and haunting, The Anchoress is both quietly heartbreaking and thrillingly unpredictable.

    One thought on “The Anchoress”

    1. "The Anchoritic LifeMedieval anchorites, as strange as it may seem to us, sought to withdraw so radically from the world that they had themselves sealed into cells for life. In fact, the word anchorite comes ultimately from the Greek verb anacwre-ein, which means "to withdraw." Anchorites (both men and women) withdrew from the world not only to avoid physical temptation, but to engage in the kind of spiritual warfare practiced by desert saints like St. Anthony (the founder of Western monasticism [...]

    2. What would lead you to leave your life, your world possessions, even your sense of self behind, and enter a cell nine steps wide for the rest of your natural life?Sarah, fresh from the grief of her sister's death, made the decision to enter the anchorage, and states Here, inside these walls, Christ would heal me of my grief, help me let go of my woman's body, it's frailty and desire.To find God and to let go of her grief, Sarah needed to remove herself from all earthly concerns and lock herself [...]

    3. I knew I would find this book disturbing and difficult to read, that it would be about some of my really big fears like being locked in a room, deprived of things, self-harm all that sort of stuff. All of that was in there as well as rape which I also find difficult to read about (so that's a warning for people I guess) but what surprised me was the richness of possibilities in the anchoress' life, that while many aspects of the time and the life were problematised, this was done without coming [...]

    4. The subject matter of this book is distinctly intriguing. Anchorites and anchoresses were a subclass of religious hermits, who lived entirely enclosed lives, in locked cells adjoining churches. They were cut off from the physical world to an extent ominously symbolized in the rituals surrounding their enclosure, which incorporated a burial service, signalling the anchorite’s or anchoress’s living “death.”It was this unusual subject matter that attracted me to Robyn Cadwallader’s novel, [...]

    5. I received a copy of this in exchange for an honest reviewPublisher summary:England, 1255: Sarah is only seventeen when she chooses to become an anchoress, a holy woman much like the one who taught Saint Hildegard of Bingen, shut away in a small cell, measuring 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, she decides to renounce the world—with all its dangers, desires, and temptations—and c [...]

    6. Reasons I personally won't read this book.I just read the 'blurp',,,YesI read it all. I'm thinking to myself,"why in the hell would I even 'consider' reading such a book given what I'm living with now? I already feel confined enough in a cast, (can't go for a walk, or swim, or drive, Etc.) I certainly do not want to read about a book where a woman chooses to livein a cell. I'm sure it may even be a good book! II don't want to go there!

    7. An anorexic walks into a barAn anorexic nun walks into a cloister An idiot walks into a village. She finds what she has been seeking all her life. There, that's better. I can hardly find words to describe the shallowness of this book. Truth be told, I even looked into my thesaurus to see if there was some word which escaped me at the moment, and which would adequately cover it. None exists.The closest approximation I can muster is that this is a medievalist's Eat, Pray, Love, which is more moth- [...]

    8. Robyn Cadwallader takes us deeply inside the medieval mind and then takes us deeper again into the mind and life of an anchoress. A woman who chose to live literally sealed into a tiny room away from the world cared for only remotely by a maidservant or two whom she could not see. Why?I have certainly asked myself that question in a desultory way on the odd occasion when the fact of the anchorite life has been drawn to my attention. But it has been a moment's thought. Rapidly dismissed, forgotte [...]

    9. For a while I didn’t buy this book as I was put off by the cover: it has a bird on the front, and I had assumed it was another novel using birds as a metaphor for life (‘learning to fly’, ‘leaving the nest’, ‘migrating’) which I am well and truly sick of. However, the blurb sucked me in. The Anchoress is about a woman in the 12th century who chooses to live in an enclosed stone cell for life. I was totally intrigued, partly because I’ve always been fascinated by the middle ages, [...]

    10. Historical fiction is an opportunity to learn much about a particular time in history, and you can tell when an author has spent many, many hours (months? years?) researching their topic. So it is with The Anchoress (4th Estate 2015), the debut novel by Robyn Cadwallader. Set in England in 1255, the story seems at first to be a simple one, with a simple setting: Sarah, the 17-year-old daughter of a cloth merchant is wracked with grief after the death of her beloved sister in childbirth, and so m [...]

    11. When I was a kid I used to wonder what it might be like if life was other than it was - say, what it might be like to be blind (I practiced being blind by doing things with my eyes closed), or what it might have been like to be a nun. I used to think I could handle being a nun if I was an olden times girl, not because I was particularly devout, but because it would be better than being married off to some gross old man with no teeth and cankers (not that I knew what a canker was). Besides, all t [...]

    12. This book suffers. Its core is the dichotomy of will/mind vs body/physical. The era is completely 1200's in rural England. Our protagonist is 17 and has chosen to become a vowed Anchoress within a nailed-closed stone cell of a rural chapel. Her first 18 months or so within this environment is the progression of the book. It won't be for many readers who want action and dense plots of multiple twists, that is for sure. In some ways, more than Hild or other books of enclosed women I have read, thi [...]

    13. This is a truly intriguing premise for a novel, to examine the life of a religious recluse living a life of withdrawal in a tiny cell. It is little known that an odd arrangement of stones low down on the outside of a British church often indicates the former presence of an anchorite’s cell. There is one in the wall of a house in my hometown of Chester and its mystery does suggest the huge gap between the medieval and modern sensibility. I had long wanted to listen to this audio book, keen to d [...]

    14. Surprisingly unmodern for a contemporary novel about a medieval anchorite. Robyn Cadwallader novel, The Anchoress didn’t entirely ‘take me back’ but I liked it very much. The plot will no doubt seem stark and bare to readers unfamiliar with the era, yet it actually moved too quickly IMNSHO. I read it in one long night and finished it up the next morning, but that isn’t the reason I think the story was rushed. Everything which happens to the protagonist, Sarah, occurs during the space of [...]

    15. I was intrigued by the story of The Anchoress as I'd never heard of the anchorite life before. I knew about cloistered nuns as I had visited a cloistered convent when I was a teenager. We were allowed to talk to them through a screen in which they could only see us from the waist up, a privacy screen raised in case any outside visitor was inappropriately dressed. They were a giggly group of ladies who enjoyed their simple life of prayer and work inside the convent walls. It was an interesting ex [...]

    16. ‘This was to be my home – no, my grave – for the rest of my life.’In the English Midlands in the middle of the 13th century, Sarah, the daughter of a cloth merchant, chooses to become an anchoress at the church of St Juliana in the village of Hartham. This choice requires Sarah to be walled up in a cell – nine paces by seven paces – adjoining the church. The cell, known as an anchorhold, has a window, an aperture which allows Sarah to see the altar – only – of the church. The cel [...]

    17. I had never heard before about an "anchoress". In Christianity, an anchoress is a woman who chooses to withdraw from the world to live a solitary life of prayer and mortification. The word anchoress comes from the Greek “anachoreo” meaning to withdraw. For all practical reasons, the woman is dead to the world, lives in a cell attached to the church and has few visitors. Here the cell measures 9 paces by 7. The door is nailed shut. There is a squint that she can see a little of the inside of [...]

    18. This interesting historical tale of a religious recluse is surprisingly sensuous and thrilling. In medieval England, the anchoress is a 17 year old woman who willingly allows herself to be walled inside the church anchorhold. This is a stone cell attached to the church that has a squint for her to see out of, a small opening for food to come through, and a door that has been nailed shut. She will stay there in the dark until she dies, at which time she will be buried beneath the stone floor. The [...]

    19. To borrow from the religious vernacular that features heavily here, THANK GOD I FINALLY FINISHED THIS. What blessed relief. That's not to say that I hated this book. It's beautifully written but frustratingly slow paced. Perhaps evocative of the passage of time when you have chosen to be locked in a small, dark cell for the rest of your days. This has been impeccably researched and the imagery is quite striking but the flaws in the plot made it hard for me to enjoy it. Even when the drama inexpl [...]

    20. This book is really well written. At times I wasn't sure I wanted to continue with the religious component but the characters are so real that it draws you in. The book is very much about the people, communication and just living the life you have.

    21. **This book is more of a 3.5, but I always round up (they really should include half-stars on here)**I had to read this for my ENG 380: Feminine Utopias and Dystopias class, and it wasn't bad. It was well-written and interesting. But here's where I have a problem with most "adult" literature: it was dry. It was like stale bread was fulfilling but if I didn't need to eat it, I wouldn't have.The story is about Sarah, an anchoress, or one who decides to give up earthly needs and live in a cell in t [...]

    22. I have had a long fascination with anchorites ever since I first learned about them. It seemed then, and now, to be one of the most severe things a person could do in pursuit of a spiritual life. Walled inside a tiny room attached to the back of a church, with only a few narrow windows from which connect to the outside world--how could a person live like that? What would cause a person to choose that life? Wouldn't they go crazy? Why not just join a convent or find a remote cave somewhere and li [...]

    23. Okay so I have to admit that I purchased this book solely because it had a pretty shiny cover when I saw it in my Uni bookstore. However the version I ordered online ended up being not so shiny.It took me a very long time to read this book. Not because it was difficult to read, in fact I could often be found reading it, but because the concepts were new and confusing and, honestly, not exactly my type of entertainment.This book was interesting and informative and religion is a subject that both [...]

    24. This book came with lots of recommendations so my expectations were quite high. Particularly since it had been compared by some to 'A Year of Wonders' by Geraldine Brooks, which is one of my all time favourite novels. 'The Anchoress' did not disappoint. I loved the description of village life in the 1200s as well as learning more about the life of an anchoress, a position I'd never heard about. The story draws you in, with both its description and the presentation of various moral dilemmas, some [...]

    25. This was a really beautiful book. I wasn't sure how much could be written about a young woman who gives up a traditional future of marriage and babies to become an anchoress and live a life of purity and prayer locked away in a cell adjoining the church. I was definitely pleasantly surprised. Sarah's story is undoubtedly fascinating. She may have wanted to live as a recluse, but the village who lives its life outside her cell walls clamors to get inside her not-so-solitary existence.

    26. It is hard to believe this is a debut novel as it is heartbreakingly beautifully written. All I can say is 1255 was a hard year to be a woman and that the concept of an Anchoress, a holy woman shut up in a cell praying for a village is an abomination of all things godly. This is also a book about a profound grief, loneliness and fear.

    27. I"m not sure where I read that most of the recent literary prize winners by women had historical settings. The writer made this point as a negative criticism, noting that as a society we can't seem to engage with or acknowledge contemporary women's lives and ongoing inequalities between men and women. On the one hand, the writer has a point: doesn't an historical setting ensure the ongoing injustices of gender discrimination are always elsewhere? Doesn't awarding these stories our highest prizes [...]

    28. The main character (the anchoress) is starting out her life as a type of solitary nun. The story follows her over the next year and half as she adjusts and struggles with her new life. The writing is beautiful and shows an interesting glimpse into catholic theology in the middle ages and reflections about the place of community and nature in human life. A very good book!

    29. Robyn Cadwallader brings a great deal of academic work in medieval England to her debut novel, The Anchoress, and it shows—not so much in rich historic detail or a vivid establishment of setting, but rather the authority with which she delves into the minds of her characters and represents the ideals and thought-patterns of the period. More than anything else, this novel is a character study, and in this it excels, though in other areas there are things lacking.By necessity of its protagonist [...]

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