July 4, 2010

Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:40 pm by lbrosch

Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran

This is a first novel by a new author of promise. She has written a superb, historically accurate and tantalizing novel of the Middle Ages. It takes place in France in the medieval town of Narbonne. It is also the time period when the Inquisition was being enacted instilling fear in all the land. Auda is born an albino and must hide her features from the public view as Inquisitors are frequently about looking for witches. Those who see her are afraid of her appearance and with the superstition of the times call her the “white witch”. An interesting twist to making this story unique is that Auda is unable to speak, as the assistant to the midwife upon seeing her strange appearance at birth, snatched her away and cut off her tongue believing she would speak of the devil. Her mother having died in childbirth, Auda is brought up by an older sister and her father who is a scribe. Her sister has married well and feels a responsibility to provide for Auda’s future. She and her father both try to find a way for Auda to live as normal a life as possible but be safely away from those who would turn her in to the Inquisitors. 
Auda has learned to read and write from her father and has become an excellent scribe through his tutelage. This puts her in a unique position in the community as women are not educated at this time.
Auda is quickly revealed to be more confident and resourceful than she would at first appear to an outsider. She knows she has skills and talents in papermaking and scribing and wants to spend her life working with her father. She lacks confidence in behaving as a normal young woman when it comes to romantic involvement. However, she finds herself attracted to an artist and soon becomes involved with him without fear. She has definite ideas as to what she wants and though her sister and father feel they should be responsible for her safety it begins to appear that Auda can take care of herself. She is intelligent and emboldened if somewhat naive because she has been kept out of society for so many years. She becomes angry when her family tries to control her life. She feels that she can wish for a normal life in spite of the dangers of being captured by the Inquistors. She exhibits bravery in the face of these dangers and is willing to take risks to further her life and the success of her father’s papermaking business. She is devoted to her father and the recognition of his talents. Not only do we learn a great deal about the culture of the times but we also get a good understanding of the history and importance of papermaking through this story. I definitely look forward to the next novel by Sankaran which is to take place in Renaissance Venice.

Find out more at www.vanithasankaran.com/Watermark.html

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