By Vanitha Sankaran
My third historical novel in a row, but this is the first time I'm reveiwing a book written by some one I know, which is to say I've met the author online and debated politics with her on occaision. Its not impossible to be impartial but it can be difficult when you want to encourage some one who is following a dream. Fortunately this novel is good enough that I don't have to be overly critical to address any imbalance my impartiality might otherwise generate.
The story is about a girl born with very pale skin, possibly she is an albino but without the red eyes, mutilated at birth by a misguided individual who thinks cutting out the new born baby's tongue will 'save it' from damnation. Growing up in medieval France, Auda is forever an outcast by virtue of her ungodly appearance and inability to speak. The daughter of a paper maker, Auda gets into trouble with the inquisition when she begins to express herself through writing.
In many ways this book reminded me of 'Kingdom of the grail' by AA Attanasio. Both books are set in the European Middle Ages, but written by non Europeans, and I fancy I can always sense the difference in perspective which manifests itself in style. Comparing 'Watermark' to the two novels I read previously, 'The Lover' and 'Scaramouche', its fairly apparent that this is not a European novel, but that is neither a good nor a bad thing. Its merely a question of style. I liked this book much more than I like 'The Lover', and in some ways it was almost the equal of Sabatini's masterpiece. Almost but not quite. Its a great novel though, which has a looming sense of menace which gradually builds up as the story progresses and when the climax happens, I wasn't able to predict what would happen next (and thats always a good sign).