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The Anchoress Audiobook, by Robyn Cadwallader Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Robyn Cadwallader Narrator: Mary Jane Wells, Steve West Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2015 ISBN: 9781504624237
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England, 1255. What could drive a girl on the cusp of womanhood to lock herself away from the world forever?

Sarah is just seventeen 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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Quotes & Awards

  • “Cadwallader does the real work of historical fiction, creating a detailed, sensuous, and richly imagined shard of the past.”

    Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize–winning author

  • “Sarah’s story is so beautiful, so rich, so strange, unexpected and thoughtful—also suspenseful…I loved this book.”

    Elizabeth Gilbert, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Affecting…Finely drawn…A considerable achievement.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “The prose is contemporary and clean without a shadow of medievalism even in direct speech…Cadwallader plays gracefully with medieval ideas about gender, power, and writing.”

    Guardian (London)

  • The Anchoress achieves what every historical novel attempts: reimagining the past while opening a new window—like a squint, perhaps—to our present lives.”

    Sydney Morning Herald

  • “An elegant and eloquent piece of ventriloquism, her feminist speaking to us from the claustrophobia of her cold dungeon about issues that matter to us still.”

    Mail on Sunday (London)

  • “A truly fine and deeply moving novel, one to save and read again.”

    Hudson Valley News

  • “[A] perceptive and arresting debut, which illuminates the medieval attitude towards women and marks Australian Cadwallader as a writer to watch.”

    Bookseller (Editor’s Choice)

  • “Cadwallader’s vivid period descriptions set a stunning backdrop for this beautiful first novel…Sarah’s path will intrigue readers at the crossroads of historical fiction, spirituality, and even feminism as she faces the internal and external pressures on women of the Middle Ages.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Mary Jane Wells and Steve West narrate the story…Both do an admirable job of bringing out the true natures of their characters and mirroring the understated quality of the story itself…This is a story that is well told, not only by the author but by both narrators as well.”


  • “Few writers have captured so completely the essential madness that accompanies hermitage, the grayness and sameness of each and every day…She is also very good at describing the power relations that inhere in religious hierarchy…Sympathetic, fully realized characters and good use of period details make this a winning work of historical fiction.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • A Marie Claire Magazine Pick, Australia, for May 2015

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About the Author

Robyn Cadwallader has published numerous prizewinning short stories and reviews, as well as a book of poetry and a nonfiction book based on her PhD thesis concerning attitudes toward virginity and women in the Middle Ages. She lives among vineyards outside Canberra, Australia, when not traveling to England for research and visiting ancient archaeological sites along the way.

About the Narrators

Mary Jane Wells (a.k.a. McAllister Lee) is a British actress, writer, voice-over artist, and Earphones Award and Audie Award–winning narrator. A graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, she held a recurring role on the BBC’s Half Moon Investigates and narrated the BBC Three television show My Children, which won a Scottish BAFTA.

Steve West, the winner of multiple Earphones Awards for narration, is an international actor who has starred on London’s prestigious West End stage, including productions of Mamma Mia! and Oh, What a Night! He is widely known for his television and film work in both the United States and the UK, and he has performed for Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. He hosts his own television show for the UK live from Los Angeles.