Auda is born an albino in 14th-century France. Believed to be cursed, her tongue is cut out by a midwife’s assistant so she’ll never speak. Her mother dies in her birthing, but her father and sister protect her. Auda matures and finds solace in helping her father make paper. In this dangerous era, the church controls the use of parchment to keep ideas from the common people, and papermaking is looked upon with suspicion. Auda’s ability to read and write, along with her pale countenance and her father’s inadvertent connection to a rising heretical religion, makes her a target for the looming Inquisition.
Watermark explores a “different” woman’s quest for self and even love in a precarious time when superstition and fear of heresy are rampant. Auda fights against the restrictions forced upon her to lead not only a normal but a creative life through her own intelligence. Sankaran tells a vibrant tale, and her research into papermaking and the daily lives of the rich and poor in medieval France adds lush background to this novel. I found it a compelling page-turner, though Auda’s actions toward the end seemed bizarre and included for dramatic purposes.
A stunning debut from a talented author.