EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Robyn Cadwallader on her brilliant debut novel The Anchoress

Robyn Cadwallader’s debut novel The Anchoress has been met with widespread acclaim, with critics comparing it to Hannah Kent’s 2013 debut Burial Rites. She chats to Booktopia’s Editorial Director Caroline Baum.

Grab a copy of The Anchoress here

The Anchoress

(Review by Caroline Baum)

Like Hannah Kent’s award-winning international bestseller Burial Rites, this is one of those out of the box debuts that always sends the publishing world into a frenzy: a startlingly original piece of storytelling from a unknown who demonstrates an ability to create a total, immersive, believable world that is rewarding as much for what it allows the reader to learn as for sheer escapist enjoyment.

Like Hannah Kent, Cadwallader has chosen to write about a singular isolated figure in an unfamiliar past. Unlike Kent, her outsider is not accused of any crime.

the-anchoress

I’m going to stick my neck out and predict this book will be one of the year’s highlights and success stories. It has bold reach and ambition, tangling with questions of morality and scripture, but despite its rarefied theme, this is an essentially human story, rich in period detail and atmospherics.

Sarah is a religious recluse – a young woman in 13th century Britain who chooses the life of an anchoress – which means being literally walled up in a cell, with limited contact to the outside world through her maid and her confessor. Following the death of her sister, Sarah forsakes the world to retreat. It soon becomes apparent that she is also, perhaps seeking sanctuary from danger: the threat posed by the sexually predatory local lord, who has made unwelcome advances. All too soon it becomes obvious that Sarah is battling inner demons – she is aware of the response of the flesh, and seeks to mortify herself to subdue her own desires.

While she faces the unexpected challenges of her cell, and of her limited interaction with the outside world, her vivid imagination tangles with her faith and conjures up the spirit of the previous anchoress- Isabella- a mysterious ghostly presence. As Sarah discovers more about Isabella she learns to face up to her own weakness, pride and examine her capacity for compassion.

Meanwhile Ranaulf, her confessor, is finding his responsibilities more demanding than he could ever have anticipated. He is not used to women who counter his interpretations of the gospels.

The scene is set for conflict as Lord Thomas imposes his will and attempts to intrude on the sanctity of Sarah’s enclosure. The plot is interwoven like a fine tapestry with references to the oppression of the peasantry by their feudal masters and the complex inter relationship between the Church and the landed gentry. Class, illiteracy, superstition, shame, all make pertinent appearances as Sarah is faced with dilemmas that test her faith to the limits of her conviction. An erotic undercurrent gives Sarah’s worship of Christ a powerfully passionate charge while every teaching of the church reinforces the notion of woman as the vessel of sin. Is Sarah safe from temptation? Is she pure in thought and deed? Would she be able to endure the suffering of Saint Margaret, the martyr whose life she studies, who died a graphically horrible death for her beliefs?

A film adaptation can surely not be far behind. Benedict Cumberbatch as Father Ranaulf perhaps? Upcoming Australian star Sarah Snook (to be seen this year alongside Kate Winslet in the eagerly awaited adaption of one of my most favourite Australian novels, The Dressmaker in October) would do the role of Sarah justice. If period fiction with big themes is your thing, this novel could be the answer to your prayers.

Grab a copy of The Anchoress here

GUEST BLOG: Tax Time Comes Around Every Year by Jimmy B. Prince

tax-for-australians-for-dummies-2014-2015Top 5 Tax Tips Overview
• Keep one bank account to record your income.
• Keep receipts to verify and substantiate your work-related expenses.
• If you hold CGT assets for more than 12 months and you make a profit on sale, only 50% is liable to tax.
• Make salary sacrifice contributions to your super fund to save paying tax.
• Read books like Tax for Australians For Dummies to broaden your tax knowledge.

If you earn income (such as salary and wages), you must lodge an annual income tax return for individuals disclosing the taxable income you derived during the financial year. So to comply with your statutory obligations, it’s best that you do the following:

• Credit all the income you derive from various sources to one bank account. This will help you to quickly calculate the amount of assessable income you derived during the financial year.
• Keep receipts to verify and substantiate all the work-related expenses you incur each year (such as, work-related reference books and journals, subscriptions to trade unions or other professional memberships and your tools of trade).
• If you hold assets (such as shares and real estate) for more than 12 months and you make a capital gain on sale, only 50% of the capital gain is liable to tax. But if you make a capital loss you can only offset it against a capital gain.
• If you make salary sacrifice contributions to your complying super fund you could save paying a substantial amount of tax and your retirement nest egg will increase.
• Because every financial transaction you enter into has a tax implication, it’s best that you have a basic understanding of income tax law. Reading books like Tax for Australians For Dummies (which is updated each year) can help you to quickly gain the necessary knowledge you need.

Grab a copy of Tax for Australians for Dummies 2014/15 here

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What Cathryn Read – Bestselling author Cathryn Hein on her March reading

Australian novelist Cathryn Hein, author of The FallsThe French Prize, Heartland and much more gives her verdict on the books she’s been reading.

With nine books to read and judge for the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA awards – none of which I can tell you about, sorry! – I didn’t have much personal reading time left. But I did manage three wonderful books.


Revival 

by Stephen King

King’s storytelling never ceases to amaze me. I kept pausing to try and work out what it was that made this book such a page-turner, but it was a wasted exercise. Each time I tried to analyse it, the story would suck me back and I’d forget what I’d stopped for in the first place.

Spanning five decades, Revival chronicles the relationship between young Jamie Morton and Reverend Charles Jacobs, a man fascinated by the power of electricity. Unhinged by tragedy, Jacobs has a meltdown while preaching, which leads to his sacking. Jamie loses a friend and mentor but as the years pass, this unlikely pair continue to cross paths. Only it appears Jacobs’s fascination has become an obsession. One with the potential to lead Jamie to hell.

Yet another disturbing and fascinating tale from the master.

Grab a copy of Revival here


Whispers Underground 

by Ben Aaronovich

This series cracks me up. It’s such FUN!

Whispers Underground is the third Constable Peter Gant adventure, and trainee wizard Peter is really started to hit his straps. A dead American art student is found in an underground station but this isn’t any ordinary murder. There’s a whiff of magic, and that means Peter and his boss, Inspector Nightingale, must lend a hand. What follows is a wonderful romp through London’s labyrinthine underground world, as well as adventures above. There are chases through sewers and Tube lines, a bit of fun-poking at the art world, some FBI meddling, and encounters with London’s gods and goddesses and other paranormal creatures.

Another witty and clever tale from Aaronovich. Highly recommended. These books make you feel good!

 Grab a copy of Whispers Underground here


The Princess Bride

by William Goldman

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve never seen the film The Princess Bride so I had no idea what this book would be like, let alone about. All I knew was that the film was a cult classic, and was a bit bemused to find that the book came after the film. I assumed it was the other way around.

It was, however, brilliantly weird.

Goldman claims that this book is his abridged version of S. Morgenstern’s classic tale, a story his father used to read to him. But Goldman discovers as an adult that his father never narrated the whole book, only the good bits because the original is bloated with dull detail. So Goldman sets out to create a new version. The rollicking romantic tale of The Princess Bride is there in all its quirky glory, but what makes this extra entertaining are Goldman’s interruptions and comments about everything from the movie to law suits from Morgenstern’s estate. There’s even a cameo by Stephen King.

A hoot! Now to track down a copy of the film and complete my Princess Bride education.

Grab a copy of The Princess Bride here


Hein, CathrynThanks Cathryn Hein, we look forward to seeing what you have read next month!

Cathryn Hein was born in South Australia’s rural south-east. With three generations of jockeys in the family it was little wonder she grew up horse mad, finally obtaining her first horse at age 10. So began years of pony club, eventing, dressage and showjumping until university beckoned.

Armed with a shiny Bachelor of Applied Science (Agriculture) from Roseworthy College she moved to Melbourne and later Newcastle, working in the agricultural and turf seeds industry. Her partner’s posting to France took Cathryn overseas for three years in Provence where she finally gave in to her life-long desire to write. Her short fiction has been recognised in numerous contests, and published in Woman’s Day.

 Click here to see Cathryn’s author page

The Falls

by Cathryn Hein

For as long as she can remember, Teagan Bliss has wanted to manage her family’s property. She’s invested everything in the farm, knowing that when her parents retire she’ll be ready to take the reins. But when a family betrayal leaves her reeling, Teagan is forced to rethink her entire future.

Heartbroken, Teagan flees to her aunt’s property in the idyllic Falls Valley. Vanessa is warm and welcoming and a favourite of the locals who drop in regularly for cocktail hour. Teagan soon catches the attention of sexy local farrier Lucas Knight, and with a new job, new friends and the prospect of a new relationship, she slowly begins to open up again.

But the village is a hotbed of gossip and division and when Teagan gets caught up in town politics, Lucas and Vanessa become concerned. As the tension in town escalates, Teagan must decide who to trust. But when she realises those close to her have been keeping secrets, the fallout may split Teagan apart forever.

Grab a copy of The Falls here

GUEST BLOG: Fleur McDonald, author of Emerald Springs, on remembering who you are

‘Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?’

That’s a quote by Danielle LaPorte and it’s one of my favourites.

You know why? Because it resonates with me.

red-dustThere are times I think as women (and possibly men too, but since I’m not one, I can’t judge!) that our true selves get lost. Not intentionally. But we become busy being ‘someone’s daughter, someone’s girlfriend, someone’s wife and someone’s mother.’

How often have you been introduced as ‘so and so’s mum?’ not by your name? Does it make you feel like you were invisible as a person?

It never used to bother me until the kids were older. There was a time I actually really enjoyed being known as Rochelle and Hayden’s mum. What I did object to was being known as ‘just’ somebody’s wife. I didn’t feel like the real me was being seen and within time I got lost inside the mum and wife haze.

Of course my good friends always could see me clearly. They knew that I liked Taylor Swift music; that I loved to read murder mysteries and to sit on the beach at sunset. They saw past the vomit stain down my back from my projectile vomiting son, the daughter I was trying to teach to talk and the tiredness. But, to be very honest, I think I’d forgotten who I was, even if my friends hadn’t.

It was until I started to write and people were reading my books, that I became ‘Fleur McDonald’ to the rest of Australia and I had to look up and say: ‘Oh, hey, I’m actually a person.’ Interviewers began asking questions I didn’t know the answers to.

silver-clouds ‘How do you write? Where do you find the time? What’s your favourite food/drink? Simple questions that should be easily answered. However, when you’re making purees for babies, or cook spaghetti bolognaise three times in one week, because that’s all the kids will eat, it’s easy to forget what you like. To get caught up in the ‘normality’ of what your life has become.

Suddenly I had to remember. It took a lot of soul searching.

A very good friend said to me once: ‘You don’t have to look too far. Go back and re-read your books.’ I thought this was quite bizarre. After all, I was writing about fictional characters – sure they were people I would have liked to be my friends if they were real. But they weren’t me.

Or were they? blue-skies

What I found intriguing was how all my friends – the ones who knew me best – saw me. As pieces of all those main characters I’ve written about. There have been a few changes in my life in the past twelve months. In fact I think it’s safe to say I’ll never forget the year I turned forty. These changes have made me do even more soul searching.

Now I know that I’m no longer ‘just a mum’. I’m Fleur. I’m getting stronger. I’m becoming more confident. Less self-conscious.

I’ve remembered that I like soft eggs – not just the white because my daughter only eats the yolk. I like my wine with ice in it and I love sitting on the patio laughing loudly with friends. I have great friends; ones with strong hands, ones that close in around me when I need them to. They’re the ones who see me clearly and can remind me who I was and who I am now. They gently push me to get outside of my comfort zone and are there to pick me up when I fall. Or drink wine when something needs celebrating.

I’m still a work in progress as we all are.

It’s been through my writing, having to overcome a few trials and tribulations and great friends, that I’m becoming who I really should be.


Fleur McDonald sml2_ Credit Chelsea from Proof of Life.jpgAbout Fleur McDonald

Fleur McDonald has also been touted as one of Australia’s favourite storytellers. Her stories are set in rural Australia and feature strong female characters and solid, no nonsense, countrymen. Fleur’s characters are inspired by the tough, complex and genuine people she’s met during a lifetime living in remote Australia. With sales well over 130,000 copies she is one of the highest-selling authors in Australia’s ever-popular rural romance genre. Fleur is the author of the bestselling novels Red Dust, Crimson DawnSilver Clouds, Blue Skies and Purple Roads.

9781743315323Emerald Springs

by Fleur McDonald

Order Emerald Springs before April 30th to go in the draw to win one of three Fleur McDonald backlist packs worth $99 each.
*Terms and Conditions apply.

When suspicions are wrongly aimed at Amelia following the theft of proceeds from the local rodeo after a crash and grab, she must work with a skeptical rural detective to clear her name – and that of the man she loves. Mystery and romance abound in the new novel from the bestselling author of Crimson Dawn. After finishing university, Amelia Bennett returns to Jervois and promptly falls in love with the wonderful – if broke and slightly stubborn – Paul Barnes. Now she’s more…

Grab a copy of Emerald Springs here

emerald-springs-frontpage-spinning-banner

David Day, author of Paul Keating: The Biography, chats to John Purcell

David Day is one of Australia’s most respected historians, author of the award-winning biographies of John Curtin and Ben Chifley. He chats to John Purcell about his latest book Paul Keating: The Biography.

Grab a copy of Paul Keating: The Biography here

paul-keating-the-biographyPaul Keating: The Biography

The Story of A Prime Minister

Paul Keating was one of the most significant political figures of the late twentieth century, firstly as Treasurer for eight years and then Prime Minister for five years. Although he has spent all of his adult life in the public eye, Keating has eschewed the idea of publishing his memoirs and has discouraged biographers from writing about his life.

Undaunted, best-selling biographer David Day has taken on the task of giving Keating the biography that he deserves. Based on extensive research in libraries and archives, interviews with Keating’s former colleagues and associates, and walking the tracks of Keating’s life, Day has painted the first complete portrait of Paul Keating, covering both the public and private man.

About the Author

David Day has written widely on Australian history and the history of World War II. His biography of John Curtin won the 2000 Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards Prize for History and was shortlisted for the 2000 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction, while his biography of Ben Chifley was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Award for History in 2002.

Grab a copy of Paul Keating: The Biography here

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser dies aged 84

9780522858099Former Prime Minister and champion of human rights Malcolm Fraser has passed away.

“It is with deep sadness that we inform you that after a brief illness John Malcolm Fraser died peacefully in the early hours of the morning of 20 March 2015,” a statement read.

“We appreciate that this will be a shock to all who knew and loved him, but ask that the family be left in peace at this difficult time.”

Mr Fraser was sworn in as caretaker prime minister in 1975 after the Whitlam government was dismissed. He led the Liberals to victory in the 1975 election before losing the 1983 election to Labor’s Bob Hawke.

Despite Fraser’s role in the 1975 “coup” against Gough Whitlam, the pair developed a close friendship post politics.

9780522867688In recent years, Mr Fraser had become an outspoken critic of the Liberal Party and quit the party in 2010 over the party’s view on issues such as immigration.

Recently Mr Fraser turned his attention to government criticisms of Australian Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs, writing that attacks on her had ‘diminished important work highlighting the worrying expansion of ministerial powers over asylum seekers’.

Labor senator Doug Cameron was shocked to hear of Mr Fraser’s death on Friday, having only recently met with the former prime minister and his wife Tamie.

“I am just devastated that Australia has lost a great voice for human rights,” Senator Cameron told reporters in Canberra.

Catch Booktopia’s Editorial Director Caroline Baum at this weekend’s Newcastle Writer’s Festival

CaroThe 2015 Newcastle Writer’s Festival has brought an enviable line up together, headlined by Booktopia’s own Caroline Baum hosting two blockbuster events with some of Australia’s most respected writers.

If you’re in the area and fancy a literary weekend, head to www.newcastlewritersfestival.org.au for more details.

And for Caroline Baum fans (aren’t we all) make sure you check out her big events over the weekend.

The Book That Changed Me

  • Authors Newcastle

    Friday, March 20, 2015

  • 7:00pm – 8:30pm
  • City Hall Concert Hall

Caroline Baum talks to bestselling authors Helen Garner, Jessica Rudd & Michael Robotham about the books that shaped them into the people they are today

Tickets: $35

Click here for more details

Helen Garner: The Lives of Others

  • HelenGarner+(2)

    Saturday, March 21, 2015

  • 6:00pm 7:00pm
  • City Hall Concert Hall

Award-winning writer Helen Garner spent eight years documenting the infamous case of Robert Farquharson, the father who drove his car into a dam, drowning his three young boys. She talks to Caroline Baum about the challenges of writing her highly acclaimed account, This House of Grief.

Tickets: $25

Click here for more details

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