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Review: The Women’s Circle by Karyn Sepulveda

on July 13, 2021

The Women’s Circle
Karyn Sepulveda
Ventura Press
2021, 240p
Copy courtesy of the author/publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}: Sydney, present day. Anna is released into the world after six 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. 

This book arrived beautifully wrapped with a little personal note and a rose quartz crystal attached, which I thought was such a fun touch, such a great connection to the story.

Anna has just been released from prison after a six year sentence. She has a social worker who has found her a place to stay in a boarding house and has provided meals and clothing vouchers for her. Anna has to get a job, save for her own place and undertake some therapy as part of her parole. Her social worker believes in her but Anna has a lot of anger and bitterness inside of her and every day is a struggle against the addiction that sent her on the path that led to jail.

This book is told in several different time periods – there’s the present, where Anna is learning to live life outside of jail again and then, after she attends an alternative therapy group and touches a mysterious crystal, Anna finds herself able to see a woman’s life in England in 1770. There’s also flashes back into Anna’s past, which help show how perhaps, her life went the way it did.

I found myself really liking Anna as a character – she’s tough, but has flashes of vulnerability. She left her home in South America and moved to Australia, after the death of the two women who had taken care of her her whole life. There in Australia, she met Jake and was drawn into his web of drugs. When Anna is released from jail, she has to rebuild the life she came here to make, getting a job and learning to save money and most importantly, resist the temptation to return to using. She is living in a boarding house with other women who have also spent time in prison and part of that is learning to get along with people who are difficult or that you might not like. At times, Anna is not always successful in this!

The glimpses she gets into 1770 showcase a small, cut off village where the women have been completely cowed by a group of men, who exert control over everyone, even executing those that do not comply with their rules. Women are not to speak to anyone, especially other women and are to be accompanied by their husbands. The powers that be decide who the women marry and when and the husbands are also punished if their wives misbehave. The woman Anna is able to connect with is Aisleen, who was separated from her mother and sister and married off. Her husband is kind and desperately wants her to abide by the rules so as to avoid any punishments but that’s not in Aisleen’s nature. She wants to be reunited with her mother and sister and she knows that if the women come together, if they show their strength in numbers, they might be able to rise up against the tyranny of the few and restore their freedoms.

I found this time period fascinating – and also, deeply frustrating and hard to read, because it was too easy to put myself in the position of the women and wonder what life would be like cut off from your family, pretty much every freedom stripped from you, beholden not just to your husband but also a group of men who had decided that they were in charge and could dominate every aspect of society. Aisleen got the spark of an idea, nurtured it and then implemented it, her desire to try and change things outweighing any fear of the repercussions. I felt like Anna had something to learn from Aisleen, even though their lives were very different.

I also really appreciated the way Anna’s struggle was showcased – both with fitting in back in society, in terms of getting a job, living with other people and also, avoiding or trying to avoid, the lure of drugs. Addiction is something that I feel a lot of people (including myself) don’t really understand on a deep level and Anna’s constant day to day resistance was something that I felt came through very clearly. I really liked her burgeoning friendship with Brayden and his earnest overtures and ability to overlook her past. But mostly I liked the way Anna found support and also, her own inner strength to change her life, to grasp a new opportunity and make a future.


Book #116 of 2021

The Women’s Circle is book #49 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2021

One response to “Review: The Women’s Circle by Karyn Sepulveda

  1. I must read this soon! Up next I think, ready for the book chat at the end of the month.

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