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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Maresi: The Red Abbey Chronicles
by Maria Turtschaninoff
Age Range: 12+
On the hostile, largely uninhabitable island of Menos stands a strong fortress – the Red Abbey - where few 'outsiders' dare to venture. The only inhabitants are a group of women who worship a female holy trinity with one Mother Goddess, and who are completely self-sufficient eating off the land. In a world where girls are not allowed to learn, much less think for themselves, a safe haven where they are cherished and educated seems like the stuff that dreams are made of.
Maresi, who narrates the story, comes from an impoverished family and relishes the chance to learn and spends all her free time devouring as many books as she can. But one day, Jai, with her tangled hair, clothes stiff with dirt and scars on her back, arrives on a ship bringing with her the winds of change and imminent danger from men who will stop at nothing to find her.
Now the sisters and novices of the Red Abbey are no longer safe; they must use all their powers and ancient knowledge to combat forces that want to destroy them. Maresi is also haunted by her own nightmares and has to battle with her deepest fears.
Maresi: The Red Abbey Chronicles is an unusual and original novel by Finnish writer Maria Turtschaninoff. The undercurrent of darkness is never far away, and although there are no graphic descriptions of violence, the fear of Maresi and her sisters is palpable. As well as being suspenseful, it is a tale of sisterhood with a strong feminist perspective and survival and fighting against the odds. Beautifully translated from Swedish by A. A. Prime the story brings feminist history to the forefront touching on an enlightened age of ancient times where women were perceived to possess knowledge and wisdom. It also reflects on women's place throughout history controlled by men and regarded as the weaker sex. Freedom and equality for women is a fairly recent phenomenon in the western world having come about within the last hundred years in many countries, but there are still areas around the globe today where women are not free to take charge of their own destiny making the 'sisterhood' theme just as relevant today.