Title: Watermark: A Novel of the Middle Ages
Author: Vanitha Sankaran
Release Date: April 13, 2010
Publisher: Avon A
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
When Auda is born, she emerges from the womb with no color at all. She is an albino, but in medieval France, the condition isn’t understood as a medical one and is instead seen as a mark of the devil. As soon as she is delivered, the midwife’s apprentice cuts out her tongue in order to ensure that she can’t spread the devil’s words.
Years later, Auda is quickly approaching womanhood while helping her father with his paper making business. When they receive word that the Inquisition is approaching their town of Narbonne, Auda’s family fears for her fate at the hands of the church.
Watermark is a well-written historical fiction debut, though its real strength lies in its main character. Auda is very easy to love. The reader can’t help but sympathize with her as she goes about her daily life, knowing she is different from everyone else and unable to speak. Her father has raised her with independence, giving her the gift of words. Since she can’t talk, writing has become her way of communicating with the world. As a result, it’s crucial to her identity. It’s wonderful to watch her grow more confident with her words and move towards true self-expression through writing.
The plight of an albino in the Middle Ages, during the time of the Inquisition, is one that I have never considered but find fascinating. As a result, Watermark has a unique premise that I very much appreciate. It’s nice to feel like you are reading something new when you pick up a book; it is refreshing and makes the novel as a whole more interesting.
Sankaran provides a lot of details about the art of making paper in Watermark, which added a crucial element to the story. Part of the reason that words are so important to Auda is because of her father’s profession. According to the author’s note at the end of the book, all the details about paper making are true. It was nice to be able to learn something from this book, as the information provided is really interesting.
Watermark did have its flaws, namely that some of the twists and turns at the end of the book were difficult to believe, but it was a fun and interesting read that I definitely recommend for fans of historical fiction, especially if you are looking for something new within this Tudor-heavy genre. Sankaran writes with confidence and ease, and does a wonderful job building her characters. I’ll definitely be picking up her next novel.