Books & Literature

Book Review: The Women’s Circle, by Karyn Sepulveda

WOMEN’S FICTION: Anna has just completed an eight-year prison sentence for selling drugs. Now she must find a new path and her search takes her to the Women’s Circle, a safe space where women can be together, confide in one another, and begin to heal.

The book version of a big warm cuddle.

In the wake of the Me Too movement, we now understand just how powerful women can be when they unite as one. While women’s rights have come a long way from where they began, we still need examples of positive female relationships to look up to in pop culture. We need inspiring female characters who are empowered to take control of their own lives.

We need books like The Women’s Circle.

This heart-warming story follows Anna, a Chilean immigrant to Australia who has just completed an eight-year prison sentence for selling drugs. A lost soul with many aching wounds and a heavy conscience, Anna must find a new path. Her search takes her to the Women’s Circle, a safe space where women can be together, confide in one another, and begin to heal. 

Interlaced between Anna’s narration comes the voice of Aisleen—a woman living in 18th-century England at a time when women are severely oppressed and forbidden from talking to one another. Anna tunes into Aisleen’s story after connecting with a crystal at the Women’s Circle, and a bond between these two women fighting such different battles is formed. 

At first, the reader might wonder what the real connection is between Anna and Aisleen, why they’re able to sense each other, and what they have to learn from it. I wasn’t disappointed with the answers and I’m sure you won’t be either. 

Anna is the perfect example of a flawed protagonist. Not every reader can empathise with the specifics of her journey, but she experiences emotions and vulnerabilities that are universal: love clouding our judgment, wishing to change the past, and wondering how the hell we ended up so far from the life we’d planned. It was a joy to witness her wild transformation, from beginning to end. 

As a society, we’re often quick to judge people like Anna, who get so lost that it almost seems like there’s no coming back. But through her journey, including flashbacks to her earlier life, author Karyn Sepulveda shows us how easy it is to get lost. She highlights the harsh reality of having to live life as that person who made such terrible mistakes. And she explores the idea that people aren’t either exclusively good or exclusively bad, but complicated. Anyone can end up anywhere if the dice rolls that way.

While there are a few purely evil characters, like Aisleen’s Edmund, Sepulveda paints a picture of humanity in most of them. This is especially satisfying to watch in Anna as she reflects on her past crimes and struggles under the weight of them. 

The Women’s Circle doesn’t shy away from scenes that are difficult to swallow, particularly with Anna’s flashbacks and Aisleen’s brutal story. Yet, with the addition of the crystal element, the chapters take on a spiritual feel and the story manages to remain uplifting without feeling cheesy. 

As the narrative progresses and reveals more of Anna’s puzzle in a non-linear fashion, as well as Aisleen’s, there’s the sense that anything could happen. This book could’ve ended up anywhere, which is one of the factors that compels the reader to keep turning the pages.

A celebration of female friendship and female empowerment, The Women’s Circle is like a big warm cuddle in a book. Cosy up with a hot chocolate and get lost in a story about love, trust in the Universe, and second chances.   

Reviewed by Vanessa Elle
Instagram: @vanessaellewrites

Distributed by:  Ventura Press
Released: 7 July 2021
RRP: $32.99

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