Nicole Melanson ~
Robyn Cadwallader’s The Anchoress was one of my favorite books of 2015. Her second novel, Book of Colours, is equally atmospheric and richly layered in imagery and tone. The story of a small group of artists commissioned to decorate a manuscript of prayers, this book felt surprisingly contemporary given it’s set in 1321.
Using a medieval backdrop, Cadwallader has essentially given us insight into centuries-old office politics. We see the same petty grievances between coworkers, the same desire to be recognized and praised for one’s efforts, the same unexpected alliances formed from spending great amounts of time in close quarters working towards a common goal.
In a parallel storyline, we follow Lady Mathilda—intended recipient of the book—trying to improve her position in the wake of sudden widowhood. Again, Mathilda’s problem feels remarkably modern when considered within the context of social media; the book, commissioned to further Mathilda’s family’s status, must now curate the details of her life in a new way to preserve some modicum of respect for her and her daughters following her deceased husband falling out of favor for political transgressions.
There’s something for fans of magic realism in here too, with a sub-plot involving a gargoyle and a guilty conscience adding a nice dimension to a character unable to escape his past.
I had Book of Colours on my TBR pile for a while but found I couldn’t just dip in and out of it between school runs and soccer training. It is a quiet, thoughtful tale best enjoyed when you have time to curl up and really listen to the lyricism of Cadwallader’s voice.
Purchase Book of Colours here.
Read WordMothers’ interview with Robyn Cadwallader here.