BOOK OF COLOURS by Robyn Cadwallader @robyncad #BookReview

BOOK OF COLOURS by Robyn Cadwallader



From Robyn Cadwallader, author of the internationally acclaimed novel The Anchoress, comes a deeply profound and moving novel of the importance of creativity and the power of connection, told through the story of the commissioning of a gorgeously decorated medieval manuscript, a Book of Hours.

London, 1321: In a small stationer’s shop in Paternoster Row, three people are drawn together around the creation of a magnificent book, an illuminated manuscript of prayers, a Book of Hours. Even though the commission seems to answer the aspirations of each one of them, their own desires and ambitions threaten its completion. As each struggles to see the book come into being, it will change everything they have understood about their place in the world. In many ways, this is a story about power – it is also a novel about the place of women in the roiling and turbulent world of the early fourteenth century; what power they have, how they wield it, and just how temporary and conditional it is.

Rich, deep, sensuous and full of life, Book of Colours is also, most movingly, a profoundly beautiful story about creativity and connection, and our instinctive need to understand our world and communicate with others through the pages of a book.

Praise for The Anchoress:

‘So beautiful, so rich, so strange, unexpected and thoughtful – also suspenseful. I loved this book.’ Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

‘Affecting … finely drawn … a considerable achievement.’ Sarah Dunant, New York Times

‘Elegant and eloquent’ Irish Mail

‘Cadwallader’s writing evokes a heightened attention to the senses: you might never read a novel so sensuous yet unconcerned with romantic love. For this alone it is worth seeking out. But also because 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

‘A novel of page-turning grace’ Newtown Review of Books


“Let all of life be there in the book”

BOOK OF COLOURS by Australian author Robyn Cadwallader is set in medieval London and covers the fascinating history of some of the first book makers. Back then they were called “illuminators” or “limners” and books were beautifully illustrated prayer books. Not much is known about the limners of this time, but Cadwallader has combined a great deal of historical research and imagination to tell the story of the creation one of these intricate prayer books through the eyes of the limners who created it and the noble lady who commissioned it.

Cadwallader drew inspiration from medieval prayer books such as the one pictured below. The “Neville of Hornby Hours” was created in London around 1325-1375 and can be viewed at the British Library website. 

Book of Hours, Use of Sarum (The ‘Neville of Hornby Hours’) 

Interspersed throughout the novel are fascinating details about how the limners of medieval times created their masterpieces. This is told through Gemma’s story. She is the  wife of John Dancaster, master illuminator, but she is just as talented as he is. She is unable to claim her work as her own due to the sexist attitudes of the times, but her skill and love of illuminating becomes evident through the book she decides to write, “The Art of Illumination” and as the story unfolds.

BOOK OF COLOURS took me a long time to read (more than a week!) but it was definitely worth the long reading time. The amount of historical information and the way all of the story lines tied in together deserved to be lingered over. At first I was a bit disappointed by the ending but after reflecting on it for a little while I think it was fitting. Medieval times were grim, even for noble families, so it feels right that there wasn’t a big happy ending for this story. 5 stars!

Thank you HarperCollins Publishers for providing me with a review copy.


Robyn Cadwallader


Robyn Cadwallader lives among vineyards in the countryside outside Canberra. She has written poetry, short stories and a non-fiction book. Her first novel, The Anchoress, was published in Australia, the UK, the United States and France.



The Pursuit of Happiness by Douglas Kennedy

A tragic love story spanning a lifetime pursuit

The year is 1945 and Sara Smythe reluctantly attends her brother, Eric’s, Thanksgiving Eve party. She is swept away by the enigmatic gate-crasher, Jack Malone. Jack says he is a U.S army journalist and is being deployed to Germany the very next day, despite the war being over. Will Jack make good on his declarations of undying love and devotion or will he breaks Sara’s heart, just as Eric suspects.

The Pursuit of Happiness is set in a time of great unrest in the USA. After the initial optimism of the war ending the country moves quickly to a state of great unease and fear of Communism. The McCarthy witch-hunts of this era a nasty little piece of American history!

The writing of this novel was beautifully done, perhaps a bit too well for me in parts. I found myself becoming a little bit depressed by this novel. There was just one depressing event after another for Sara and her loved ones. Kennedy did such a brilliant job with all of the characters that I just really felt their pain with them throughout the novel.


The critically acclaimed bestseller from the number one bestselling author of The Moment and A Special Relationship. A powerful romantic novel set in the tumultuous world of post-war America.

New York, 1945 – Sara Smythe, a young, beautiful and intelligent woman, ready to make her own way in the big city, attends her brother’s Thanksgiving Eve party. As the party gets into full swing, in walks Jack Malone, a US Army journalist back from a defeated Germany and a man unlike any Sara has ever met before – one who is destined to change Sara’s future forever.

But finding love isn’t the same as finding happiness – as Sara and Jack soon find out. In post-war America chance meetings aren’t always as they seem, and people’s choices can often have profound repercussions. Sara and Jack find they are subject to forces beyond their control and that their destinies are formed by more than just circumstance. In this world of intrigue and emotional conflict, Sara must fight to survive – against Jack, as much as for him.

In this mesmerising tale of longing and betrayal, The Pursuit of Happiness is a great tragic love story; a tale of divided loyalties, decisive moral choices, and the random workings of destiny.


Title: The Pursuit of Happiness

Author: Douglas Kennedy

ISBN: 0099415372 (ISBN13: 9780099415374)

Published: Arrow 2001

Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction

Pages: 646

Source: Own Copy

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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Book Review: The Wandering Harlot by Iny Lorentz

Title: thewanderingharlot The Wandering Harlot

Original Title: Die Wanderhure (German)

Author: Iny Lorentz

Translator: Lee Chadeayne

ISBN: 9781477823347

Published: June 24 2014, Amazon Publishing

My Rating: 4/5


In 1410 in Constance, Germany, the beautiful Marie Schärer’s luxurious life as a merchant’s daughter is destroyed when her ambitious father arranges her marriage to a lawyer from the Black Forest named Rupert Splendidus. Her childhood sweetheart warns her of the attorney’s sly character and is tragically proven right the day before the wedding, when Rupert accuses Marie of unimaginable behavior and has her thrown into a dank dungeon, where she is brutally attacked by his henchmen. Unfairly condemned and banished from her home, Marie is forced to become a wandering prostitute to survive. The clever and kind Hiltrud befriends Marie, and the strong-minded pair sets out on spirited adventures—bedding counts, meeting scoundrels, and tricking foes—as Marie plots the ultimate revenge on the men who stole her honor and her family’s fortune.

Set against a richly detailed historical backdrop, this is the dramatic tale of one woman’s quest for vengeance, redemption, and real love.

My Thoughts:

I received my copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I loved The Wandering Harlot! It takes a lot to convince me to hand out a four star rating or to go out of my way to recommend a novel to other readers but The Wandering Harlot has convinced me to do both.

The Wandering Harlot has been translated from the original German copy Die Wanderhure by the very talented Lee Chadeayne. It was very easy to read and I didn’t feel that there could have been much, if anything, that was lost in translation.

It is a historical novel set in medieval Germany at a time when there was great unrest right across the country. Three claimants to the Papacy have caused massive upheavals and the nobility seemed to spend most of their time scheming and plotting against each other to gain more land or money.

The Wandering Harlot has been meticulously researched by the husband and wife writing team of Iny Klocke and Elmar Wohlrath, historians whose tales of medieval action, adventure, and romance reflect their academic interests and love for each other. All good books should transport their readers to another world and I felt that the attention to detail and accuracy that has clearly gone into writing The Wandering Harlot went a long way towards placing me in medieval Germany from beginning to end. I’m quite happy to be living in modern day Australia after reading about how easily a woman’s life could be ruined forever by the hearsay of so called respectable men back then!

The main character, Marie, and her tale of betrayal and revenge was interesting and complex. The story revolves around how she survives after being raped, publicly whipped and driven from her town, her travels as a wandering harlot and her overwhelming desire to destroy her betrayers.

The supporting characters are all well rounded and many of them could easily have their own novels written about them. Hiltrud is Marie’s companion on her travels. She was sold into prostitution as a child and saves Marie’s life by taking her under her wing and teaching her the survival skills she needs to survive in her new life. She dreams of leading a normal, simple life but she knows that there is really no other choice for women back then once that path is chosen for them.

Rupert Splendidus and his main henchman Utz are terrifying villains. Rupert because he was so diabolically evil and Utz because he was so violent and cruel. Neither one showed a hint of remorse about their evil deeds either, they seemed to quite enjoy them actually.

Michel, Marie’s knight in shining armor, was a bit of a let down for me in the end. He started off very heroically by setting out to find Marie when she is first driven out of town but their reunion was definitely not what I had been expecting or hoping for. Hopefully he redeems himself in the next novel in the Marie series, The Lady of the Castle which will be published in January 2015.

I predict that lovers of historical fiction or lovers of a good, strong story with well developed characters will want to devour The Wandering Harlot in one sitting. I’m over the moon to discover that the Marie Series has five novels in German and I can’t wait to read the next installment The Lady of the Castle in January

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