Robyn Cadwallader Meet the Author

10 May 2023

ANU/Canberra Times. Meet the Author. Robyn Cadwallader

Robyn Cadwallader will be in conversation with Nigel Featherstone on Robyn’s new novel, The Fire and the Rose, a vibrant, richly imagined and deeply moving novel set in the turbulent world of thirteenth-century England.

England, 1276: Forced to leave her home village, Eleanor moves to Lincoln to work as a housemaid. She’s prickly, independent and stubborn, her prospects blighted by a port-wine birthmark across her face. Unusually for a woman, she has fine skills with ink and quill, and harbours a secret ambition to work as a scribe, a profession closed to women.

In Lincoln, divided by religious prejudice, with the Jews frequently the focus of violence, Eleanor falls in love with Asher, a Jewish spicer, who shares her love of books and words, but their relationship is forbidden by law. When Eleanor is pulled into the dark depths of the church’s machinations against Jews and the king issues an edict expelling all Jews from England, Eleanor and Asher are faced with an impossible choice.

The Fire and the Rose is a tender and moving novel about how language, words and books have the power to change and shape lives. Most powerfully, it is also a novel about what it is to be made ‘other’, to be exiled from home and family. But it is also a call to recognise how much we need the other, the one we do not understand, making it a strikingly resonant and powerfully hopeful novel for our times.

‘Luminous, lyrical and deeply moving, Cadwallader’s writing fills the senses and sings with detail and authenticity. A compelling story of love, resilience and hope in the face of oppression and racism, alive with imagery’ Karen Viggers.

Robyn Cadwallader’s first novel, The Anchoress (2015), was published internationally to critical acclaim, winning a Canberra Critics’ Circle Award for fiction and was nominated for the Indie Book Awards, Adelaide Festival Awards, ABIA Awards and ACT Book of the Year Award. Her second novel, Book of Colours (2018), won the 2019 ACT Book of the Year Award, received a Canberra Critics’ Circle Award and was shortlisted for the Voss Award. Her reviews, prize-winning short stories and poems have been published in journals in Australia and the USA.

Nigel Featherstone, whose latest novel is My Heart is a Little Wild Thing, was named the ACT Artist of the Year at the 2022 ACT Arts Awards. His 2019 war novel Bodies of Men, 2019 was long-listed for the 2020 ARA Historical Novel Prize, Highly Commended for the 2020 ACT Book of the Year, shortlisted in the 2019 Queensland Literary Awards, and received a 2019 Canberra Critics Circle Award.

The vote of thanks will be given by Sally Pryor, Features Editor of the Canberra Times

This event is in association with Harry Hartog Bookshop. Books will be available for purchase on the evening in the Cultural Centre foyer. Pre-event book signings will be available from 5.30pm, and available again after the event.


• Registration is required for this event.

• Accessible parking spaces are available around campus should you require them.

• To help keep everyone safe, please ensure that you are familiar with, and follow, the advice from ACT Health regarding COVID-19.

• If you do not feel well, please refrain from attending this event.

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• A podcast will be made available after the event.

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