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Watermark: A Novel of the Middle Ages Paperback – Bargain Price, April 13, 2010

42 customer reviews

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Paperback, Bargain Price, April 13, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Medieval France is no place to be born albino: when Auda emerges from the womb undercooked and white as bone, an ignorant healer's apprentice tears out the child's tongue to keep her from spread[ing] the devil's lies. Though her mother dies in childbirth, a small stroke of luck graces Auda's childhood: her father makes his living as a scribe and a papermaker, so she learns reading and writing to compensate for her inability to speak. Together, father and daughter work to make his experimental paper the new standard for France's writing stock (replacing parchment); against the odds, they field an order from the local vicomtesse, who then takes on Auda as her personal scribe. At the palace, Auda grows more independent and finds romance with an artist who saves her from a witch-hunting mob. When Auda begins writing potentially heretical verse about women's empowerment, however, she tempts fate and the inquisition, setting off a chain of unlikely events. Though improbable plot twists detract, Sankaran has created a likable, easy-to-root-for protagonist in Auda. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

A recent trend in historical fiction is the immersion of multifaceted female protagonists into a trade or profession. Sankaran follows suit by introducing another strong female character into the genre. Born an albino in medieval France, Auda endures a dreadful experience: her tongue is amputated by a healer’s apprentice who believes she has been cursed by the devil. Unable to speak, she is an avid reader and writer who masters her father’s craft as a papermaker at a time when the Church, suspicious of independent thought and communication, tightly controls and monitors access to parchment. When Auda gives voice to her passions through her poetry, both she and her father become victims of the Inquisition. Sankaran deftly illuminates a time of intellectual darkness in this superbly rendered debut. --Margaret Flanagan

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 331 pages
  • Publisher: Avon (April 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061849278
  • ASIN: B004IK9DZ6
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,501,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Lydia on June 1, 2010
Format: Paperback
There were things I loved and things I didn't love about this book. I thought that Vanitha Sankaran did a wonderful job of setting up the story - the birth of Auda and death of her mother, Elena was heartbreaking and an eye-opening (if a bit predictable) method to open the story.

I loved the educational aspect of making paper and the way the story revolved around the tracts labeled as "heresy" and the connection that papermakers risked. I actually thought the historical aspect of this novel was the most interesting part of it and carried the story of Auda and her family.

Which brings me to what I was disappointed in. I felt as if Auda, her sister and her father were sort of glossed over and we were given half-stories .. just enough to keep the story moving but not enough to make me feel a connection to her. The person I felt the strongest for was actually Auda's mother - and she had just a few short pages devoted to her.

Overall though, it is an interesting perspective on the Middle Ages and one worth reading as long as you don't expect to have any lasting impression of character to carry away from it.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By LadyDragoness on June 21, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Watermark is the story of a young woman, Auda, who is different than others because she is albino and mute, and her struggle to survive in the middle ages. Ignorance and superstition are common place in Auda's time; she must combat these enemies, along with the Inquisition and society's senseless fear of anything that's different. I found the map of France, included in the front of the book, to be quite helpful.

I love the way this story unfolds, starting with the drama attendant upon Auda's birth and then, what seemingly passes for a normal life, until Auda has become a young adult. The true details of history and paper making included in the story as well as the carefully developed characters and their actions make this novel a page turner. There are both kinds of characters in this story; those you love and those you love to hate... still, I wasn't entirely prepared for the shocking ending... and, no, I'm not gonna tell... well, okay I'll just say this: it wasn't completely unexpected, but I did wish someone else had turned out to be Auda's betrayer.

In some books, the supporting addenda are almost as interesting as the main story. This is especially true of Watermark. In addition to the great story, and the aforementioned map, my copy of Watermark contains:

* An author's note that I recommend to readers finishing the book,
* A glossary of words originating in five other languages which were used in the book and which may be unfamiliar to many readers,
* A chronology of important events in the middle ages, and
* A selected bibliography for readers who may wish to read more about the historical events and influences behind the novel...

and that's not all, but I'll leave the rest for you to discover on your own.
Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dawn Killen-Courtney VINE VOICE on June 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
This novel has a lot going for it conceptually, and as a writer and paper & pen lover myself, I couldn't wait to read it. As Ms. Sankaran says herself in her notes about the story behind the book at the end, "The latter part of the medieval era was ripe with change; it was teeming with growing tensions between the burgeoning middle class, the corrupt Church, and a nobility worried about its own power, which makes the perfect backdrop for a compelling story." It does indeed, the pity is, it just doesn't happen with this one. I really did try to like this novel, but the characters were never really brought to life. Their motivations at times left my head whirling, and while I could certainly sense the momentous tension of those times, it felt as though it was at some remove, rather than the immediacy of a vivid story well told. It is interesting to watch Auda's growth and individuation as she emerges from her sheltered life. Whether coming from that background, even with the ability to read and write, she would've developed her rather (for the time) radical ideas about gender equality and the nature of love is a bit of a stretch for me, but I do like boundary breaking heroines, so I'll suspend disbelief on that count.

The ending read like a fantasy, though not a bad one, it just didn't fit in with the tone of the rest of the book.
So I'm not sure what happened to what was obviously a subject of meaning and passion for the author, but between the story she had living in her head and the written book itself, something got lost.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amy M. Bruno on July 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
What a great year 2010 has been for historical fiction writer debuts! I have been really blown away by the shear awesomeness of these first timers and know that I will be reading them for years to come! And author Vanitha Sankaran is no exception.

Sankaran has painted an exquisite and beautiful tale about a mute Albino girl named Auda, who is the daughter of a papermaker in Narbonne, France in the 14th century. Born during a time of religious persecution and intense superstition, Auda's affliction causes her to be a target and she has to be extremely cautious when leaving her house or risk being called a witch and handed over to the Inquisition.

My knowledge of watermarks and the paper making process itself were very limited prior to reading Watermark and it was fascinating to me to read about the history and the way it was made back then. One thing that I thought was very interesting was that watermarks were sometimes used by heretics as a means of conveying secret messages. I felt like I really learned a lot from reading this book and for me that is always a plus and one of the main reasons why I read historical fiction.

Auda is an extremely likeable character, with her passion for the written word that any reader can relate to. She has spirit, bravery and fortitude and is inspiring to read about - all good qualities for an awesome heroine in my book!

Watermark is a strong, solid debut from an emerging new talent and I HIGHLY recommend it!

FTC: Many thanks to the author for sending me a copy to review.
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