It takes great skill to compose an engaging narrative about a woman who never leaves her room, but Sarah is an intriguing character. We wonder about her motivation for being there, the impact of her incarceration on her body and mind and, when we discover along with her that one of the previous inhabitants of her cell left in disgrace, whether she will stay. And, much as Sarah would prefer to renounce the world, she cannot be completely isolated, as she hears the church services through a slit in the adjoining wall and the rhythms of village life on the other side, and as women from the village come to solicit her prayers.
The Anchoress is published by Faber and Faber who provided my review copy.
While I could imagine sharing Sarah’s religious mania, I’m not sure I’d have voluntarily put myself in a situation of such utter dependence. What if there were some emergency that required me to get out but my calls for help went unanswered? This is part of the theme of what I hope to be my second novel, Underneath, which I’ve recently read through after a gap of about a year. Perhaps more to the point, it connects to the theme of the latest flash fiction challenge from Charli Mills. Over in Idaho, Charli is concerned about encroaching wildfires, and the bravery of the men and women who fight them. In Europe, we’ve been shamed for the past week by stories of migrants, particularly refugees from the war in Syria, dying in pursuit of a better, safer, healthier life for their families. There’s no way I could do justice to their plight in my 99 words – and revisiting Charli’s prompt I see I’ve strayed slightly from the need for help in an extreme weather event – but here’s my paltry contribution:
When the water swirled around our feet, the boatman insisted we’d be there soon. What choice had we? We peered through the darkness for dry land.
When we asked for jackets, they said to start bailing. When the sea reached our knees, we asked about the radio. But rescue meant repatriation and prison for the crew.
They said we were too many, but we hadn’t been too many when they took our dollars. We pleaded for the children as the waves crashed overhead. When the water reached our waists, they launched the dinghy and left us to our fate.