About the Book:
Sydney, present day. Anna is released into the world after eight years in prison. The entirety of her possessions stuffed into a single plastic bag. The trauma of her past, a much heavier burden to carry. Feeling hopeless, isolated and deeply lonely, Anna attends an alternative support group; The Women’s Circle. But when she touches an ancient crystal, Anna connects to a woman she has never met, in a past she doesn’t recognise.
In 1770, a brutal regime torments the English village of Quarrendon and is determined to keep its women apart. Young villager Aisleen desperately seeks a way to defy the rules, reunite with her sister, and live life on her own terms, without her husband’s permission. The stakes are high and terror of punishment inescapable, but doing nothing comes at an even steeper price…
While separated by generations, Anna finds herself drawn to the spine-chilling and courageous plight of Aisleen and Quarrendon’s women. Can their bond help her to face her past and embrace her second chance at life?
A heart-warming and inspirational portrayal of inner strength and vulnerability, The Women’s Circle shows us the true power of female friendship in all its forms.
Published by Ventura Press
Released 7th July 2021
There is a lot to admire about Karyn Sepulveda’s latest release, The Women’s Circle, not least of all the fact that the main character is newly released from prison after serving a sentence for drug related crime. And she’s a recovering ice addict. Not your usual character profile but it immediately drew me in. Because not many novels take the reader on a journey like this, from the moment of exiting prison with a small plastic bag of basics, fear of the society that has moved on without you over the years of your imprisonment, the shadow of your addiction still flickering within you, and no support network whatsoever. There are many stereotypes that exist pertaining to drug addicts and people who have been in prison. Karyn does a carefully considered job within this novel of unpicking those stereotypes and offering us, as readers, the opportunity to challenge our own perceptions.
This novel rests heavily on the theme of female support networks, leaning in and accepting that other people are there for you, they want to be there for you, and they want you to let them support you. The female relationships within this novel go beyond friendship though, they are true support structures and the connections made were done so in a variety of ways, which just goes to show, you never know who is out there ready to lend you a hand when you need it most. Taking this back to Anna, our main character, who was very resistant at first to trusting and relying on people, you see how isolating being released from prison can be, how difficult the adjustment back into society is when you are also battling a history of substance abuse and/or toxic relationships.
There is an historical storyline woven into the narrative that focuses on a village in England in the 1770s that has become isolated from the rest of England and taken over by a brutal patriarchal regime. This storyline was really interesting and I actually would have loved for this to have been given more airtime, particularly as the foundations for this historical story were well developed. I was certainly left pining for more with unanswered questions by the end of this part. The manner in which the two storylines/timelines were connected wanders into the terrain of speculative fiction but its uniqueness sat well within the thematic structure of the novel.
All in all, The Women’s Circle is a moving and thoughtful novel that has wide appeal. Karyn Sepulveda is assuredly asserting herself as a valued presence within the Australian literary scene. Recommended reading.
Thanks to the author for providing me with a review copy.