The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader
1255: Running from her grief, seventeen year old Sarah chooses to become an anchoress, a holy woman shut away in a small cell at the side of the village church. During her internment she begins to realise she cannot keep the outside world away and maybe her soul is still in danger.
First impressions: The title of this review says it all – I could feel the claustrophobia as Emma entered her cell in the opening pages. Great writing and a marvellous reading experience!
Highlights: Not only did I feel like I was in the cell with Emma throughout the novel, the author perfectly captures all the nuances of medieval village life. Much to my surprise there is much more to the story than just an secluded life in a cell. The life of an anchoress is quite era-specific and I became really interested in the story and finding out about this practice. Finally, I loved the ending. Perfectly fitting and not what I was expecting.
If I was an editor: I have to admit that as much as I loved the story, I did find it a bit slow in places, particularly the religious discussions.
Overall: A peculiar medieval tradition brought to life.
The Anchoress: 3 stars
Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback
1717: A Finnish family move to the isolated Blackasen Mountain in Swedish Lapland. Winter sets in and the Lapps call it a Wolf Winter: the kind of winter that will remind people they are mortal and alone. A body is found on the mountain and only the newcomers are interested in knowing who committed this murder. What secrets does the mountain community hold?
First Impressions: I was instantly transported to 1717 Lapland. I felt the isolation and, as the story progressed, the oppressiveness of the snow.
Highlights: I loved the historical context of this novel. I can’t believe I am about to say this but I wanted more information about the wars Sweden was involved in as the trickle down effect they had on the settlement was just not enough! The priest was my favourite character and I wanted to know more about him. I thought he was the best written character which is interesting as the author is female and the other two main characters are also female. There is so much in this novel and the author has struck the right balance between the mysterious and reality. It’s a fascinating community she has created, a snapshot of another era. The role of women was definitely complex. Based on other reviews I was worried that Maija may be a snowbound Miss Marple trying to solve the crime but no, she was merely curious and her involvement in trying to solve the case was believable. On a different note, I really enjoyed reading the extras at the end of this novel. These sorts of author interviews are usually superficial but Ekback was answering some really probing questions!
If I was an editor: The novel is primarily about relationships with murders and disappearances muted in the background and adding to the atmosphere. It was therefore a little surprising at the end to see such a focus on how much the disappearances were disturbing the community. The answer to the crimes and disappearances also felt too modern.
Overall: A perfect remedy for those still suffering from Burial Rights withdrawal.
Wolf Winter: 5 stars
Thank you to BookBridgr for a copy of the novel to review.