Author: Vanitha Sankaran
Publisher: Avon A
Publication Date: April 13, 2009
Paperback: 368 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
About the Book:
Watermark is an atmospheric and compelling debut novel about the search for identity, the power of self-expression, and the value of the written word.
The daughter of a papermaker in 1320s France, Auda has an ability to read and write that comes from a place of need. Silenced, she finds hope and opportunity in the intricacies of her father’s craft. But the powerful forces of the ruling parties in France form a nearly insurmountable obstacle.
In a time when new ideas were subject to accusations of heresy, Auda dares to defy the status quo. Born albino, believed to be cursed, and rendered mute before she’s ever spoken, her very survival is a testament to the strength of her spirit. As Auda grows into womanhood, she reclaims her heritage in a quest for love and a sense of self.
Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran is a beautifully scripted tale of a woman, born an albino, trying to get by in the Middle Ages during the time of the Inquisitions. The story begins in 1300 Narbonne, France with Elena struggling with a difficult birth and anxiously awaiting her husband Martin and their young daughter Poncia's return with a midwife, however it is a healer he returns with. Biatris sends her assistant to gather herbs while she assesses the situation, concluding she must cut the baby from the womb, saving one life, but ending another. When Biatris' assistant sees the baby, born without pigmentation, she takes the baby to the river to drown, but instead chooses to cut the baby's tongue out to prevent her from speaking the Devil's word. The story then jumps to 1320, Auda is happily living with her father and her sister Poncia has settled down into married life with Jehan. Poncia wants to find someone willing to marry her sister, since more and more Inquisitors are arriving daily. One Inquisitor writes about finding the "white witch", alluding to Auda, yet she feels relatively secure even with herself while at home with her loving, artistic father. Auda would rather be happy than safe, staying unmarried and making paper with her father. She is educated, when most women are not and Auda enjoys her freedom and shares the same dream as her father, to one day make paper, reading, and writing common amongst all people; lofty goals for her poor father, even loftier for one who is being sought after. Martin has been commissioned by the Vicomtess and she has agreed to hire Auda as her scribe, but at what cost? The Watermark is an exceptionally well-written novel that easily captivates the reader and commands the reader's attention until the very end. Sankaran chose an intriguing historical setting for her novel and it is evident through her writing that she has extensively researched this time period. It is with vivid detail the reader is transported back to the Middle Ages, to the sites, the sounds, and people of the time, from the Inquisitions, the heretics and daily accusations to love, ambitions, and awaking artistic movements. Auda not only is a strong charater, she is also an easy-to-like character who despite all adversity is true to herself, her dreams, goals, and ambitions. Watermark is a brilliantly crafted narrative that I would highly recommend to all readers.
About the Author:
Vanitha Sankaran holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University. In addition, her short stories have been published in numerous journals, such as Mindprints, Futures, Prose Ax, and The Midnight Mind. She is at work on her second novel, which is about printmaking in Italy during the High Renaissance.
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I received a complimentary copy of Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran to be a part of this tour and offer my honest review of the novel. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.