Monday, April 12, 2010

Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran

Synopsis From Back Cover:

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 curesed, and rendered mute before she'd 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.

I'm happy to report that I enjoyed this one for what it was, a look at a young woman's life in France during the Middle Ages.  One thing that stood out about me in this book is something I rarely ever think all that much about.  I'm always amazed when reading a book, fiction or non, that refers to the base supersition that the human race found itself living under in the past.  I was horrified when the healer's assistant cuts Auda's tongue out right after she is born so she won't be able to sprend Satan's lies, all that because she was born albino.  I was even more disturbed to be reminded that such men and women were routinely left to die when they were born or blamed for the troubles of a particular town, and were killed as a result.  Throw in The Inquisition and you have a mixture ripe for chaos and bloodshed.

When I read such accounts, I'm always saddened by what humans are capable of, especially when it comes to those we view as "different" from us.  Luckily we have evolved a lot since then but we have miles to go still.  All we have to do is look too the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur, the way women are subjugated in many parts in the world, and all those countries that execute men and women for being gay, including teenagers, to realize how far we still have to go. 

Well now that I'm done with that soapbox, I will get back to the book itself.  I found it to be a well written account of one person's life as she is trying to find her plac in the world.  Auda, is obvisously a very intelligent woman who would fit in will in today's society.  She is also a very head strong charcater, once she makes up her mind on something, she sticks to it no matter what the consequences may be.  I enjoyed reading her life story including finding love in a world that didn't make it easy for her.  This was a book, that even with it's happy ending, took a couple of dangerous curves that I greatly appreciated and felt added to the story.  This wasn't a "safe" happy story and I'm so happy I go the opportunity to read it.

Speaking of the ending, I sort of had a teeny, tiny issue with it.  Now this is a issue I've had with a lot of books lately and I'm not sure if it's that I'm getting older or something else I haven't thought of yet.  I found the ending of the book to be a little rushed.  The begining and the middle sections sort of stayed at a nice pace, neither plodding along slowly or rushing forward like a runaway train.  The ending on the other hand felt like the author ran out of time to tell her story, so she had to rush the action a little.  The only other issue I had was the lecherous nobleman, he just felt out of place and not necessary to the story.  It was almost like he was an afterthought.

I want to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the pleasure of reading this one.  I may end up being a convert to historical fiction afterall.

For more on Vanitha Sankaran, please visity her website.

For More Reviews, Please Stop By These Other Stops On The Tour:

Monday, April 5th: Bibliofreak

Wednesday, April 7th: Savvy Verse & Wit

Thursday, April 8th: Serendipitous Reading

Monday, April 12th: Wordsmithonia

Tuesday, April 13th: Book Nerd Extraordinaire

Wednesday, April 14th: Rundpinne

Monday, April 19th: Raging Bibliomania

Wednesday, April 21st: Thoughts From an Evil Overlord

Thursday, April 22nd: Devourer of Books

Monday, April 26th: Café of Dreams

Tuesday, April 27th: Starting Fresh

Wednesday, April 28th: A Few More Pages

Thursday, April 29th: Reading, Writing, and Retirement


Heidenkind said...

Sounds depressing. This is why I didn't major in history...

trish said...

I'm glad you liked the book because I was a little worried that you'd give up on historical fiction completely if you didn't like this one as well. :)

From reading other reviews, I knew Audra was mute, but I didn't know why. Holy cow that is some heavy stuff! I agree that we've come a long way but that we still have a long way to go. It's amazing how powerful superstitions and certain beliefs can be...they can really make people do terrible things to each other.

brizmus said...

I kind of want to read this book, but I'm afraid it would make me lose faith in the human race and then be sad for several days. It sounds great, though.

Jan von Harz said...

Excellent review. I am of the same mind about endings. Although, I thinking ending are always a problem for most writers. Still as a reader I want the ending to either tie up loose ends without rushing headlong after the climax, or to leave me thinking long after I have read the last page.

I will definitely be looking for this book as I am a huge fan of the setting.

bermudaonion said...

After reading your review, I'm glad I didn't live in the Middle Ages! The book sounds interesting.

Lina Shaik said...

That part about her tongue being cut out just because she was different is really disturbing. I take some comfort though that there are books like this that highlight such inhumanity (fiction or not, there are many similar and true cases out there), and how we can take stock from it.

Zia said...

I really enjoyed your thoughts on this review Ryan. This isn't my normal kind of read but it does sound interesting.

Carrie K. said...

I really want to read this one - first, because the cover is gorgeous, but also because it sounds like a great read!

bookmagic said...

This looks like a great one. HF is awesome if done right and I love books that make me think about stuff I had forgotten. Glad you liked this one!

Hannah Stoneham said...

An interesting review of a book that clearly shows the downsides of living in the middle ages! thanks indeed for sharing


Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Reading historical fiction is fascinating and disturbing at the same time. You can appreciate, in some cases, the world today and other times, you wish we could do some simple things from the past.

Punishing people for being different is never a good thing, regardless of time period.


Katy said...

Good review--I felt the same way about the pace of the book. I was enchanted and then the end just kind of threw me off because it went so quickly.

Staci said...

I enjoyed your soapbox thoughts and also the ones about the book. I've felt the same lately about the rushing of the ending...why do they do that???? I also like that you've been reading out of your comfort zone and may enjoy more historical fiction!!! Great thoughts on this one!

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

This sounds like an interesting read. It turns my stomach to think things like the tongue being cut out happened, yet I know worse happened. It just seems so harsh. But well on from there. Thank you for the great review of a strong character.

Stephanie said...

This sounds very interesting. I had know idea that these horrible superstitions about albinos existed.

Simcha said...

It's been a while since I read any historical fiction but this sounds a great book. I plan on tackling my pile of non-genre books soon so maybe I'll try to add this on. Great review!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like it has the potential to be a tear-jerker, which mean I'll pass. I miss out on so many good books, though.

Beth said...

Hmm, interesting! I think I'll have to give this one a pass myself, but thanks for the review! And what a fabulous cover!

Deb said...

I just received this book last week in the mail. I preordered it after reading about it on the book tour list. I can't wait to read it. I am jealous that you were able to already. And I am glad you liked it.

I have felt the same way you do about endings in some recent books. A little too rushed. A sign of the times?