Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran

Some of us are born with an inclination to create beauty and live it no matter what the cost, while others follow traditions and keep their heads low.  Vanitha Sankaran’s Watermark weaves an intricate tale in the shadow of dark forces that once held sway over the Church and through which a young woman blossoms and carves her path in the world out of love and sacrifice.

“‘For crimes of heresy and thoughts against our Church,’ he began, ‘the condemned who have repented are forthwith instructed to wear the yellow cross of the heretic upon their clothes at all times, so all may know their crimes and trust or mistrust their words and deeds as is just.’  He brandished a parchment roll and read off names followed by crimes in his sonorous voice.  Relief rose in cries after each name.

Auda watched the archbishop’s mouth move.  More than ever, he seemed like a puppet.”  (Page 298 of ARC)

Auda is a mute Albino living in France during the 1300s at the time of the inquisition when heresy and witches are seen even among the innocent.  Her father is a papermaker and her sister, Poncia, is a young wife of a merchant in Narbonne, a prospering and sheltered city.  Innocent activities in Narbonne can be misconstrued into heresy by those who dislike you, misunderstand you, or simply wish to be devoid of suspicion.  Making paper and providing it to anyone, rather than parchment to nobles and the church, is unwise, but Auda and her father have unflappable dreams.  Auda wants her voice to be heard — clearly and loudly — despite her disability, but already she is an anomaly being a woman of letters.

“‘The Italians and the Spainards have sold their broadsheets for years,’ her father said, glancing at Auda.  ‘The Church has done nothing –‘

‘Because Her eyes are fixed on France.’

‘Oc, because France houses her pope, not because of any heresy!’ His voice rose.  ‘Even if paper brought cause for concern, that doesn’t put me in the same barrel as witches and heretics.'”  (Page 189 of ARC)

Rising fortunes bring her to the forefront of society after being sheltered since her mother’s passing, but can Auda handle what is to come, how her life will change, and where her conviction will lead?  Watermark transports readers to a time when many in France were carefully watching their own actions and those of their neighbors, looking for sinister subtleties in their behaviors.  It will emotionally tug at the heartstrings as Auda learns to come into her own, makes adult decisions, and learns that even simple actions can have hefty consequences and that love can transcend the physical.  One of the best books of the year!

About the Author:

Vanitha Sankaran holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University. In addition, her short stories have been published in numerous journals, such as Mindprints, Futures, Prose Ax, and The Midnight Mind. She is at work on her second novel, which is about printmaking in Italy during the High Renaissance.

Check out the rest of her TLC Book Tour here.

Also don’t forget to check out the next stop on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour at Reading Frenzy with Edgar Allan Poe.

This is my 23rd book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

FTC Disclosure: Thanks to TLC Book Tours, HarperCollins for sending me a free copy of Watermark for review. Clicking on title and image links will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated.

© 2010, Serena Agusto-Cox of Savvy Verse & Wit. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Savvy Verse & Wit or Serena’s Feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. I enjoyed your review and look forward to reading this one. I love historical fiction and this has been on my TBR pile for a few weeks now, but I might need to shuffle it up the list after reading your review.

  2. I’m reading Watermark as well and just dropped by. I love your review!
    .-= gaby317 @ Starting Fresh´s last blog ..Book Review of Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok =-.

  3. This looks like a fascinating historical novel! I’m glad you enjoyed it – I’ve added it to my list. Thanks!

  4. Hello Vanitha:
    I think your blog is fabulous, so I’m awarding you with the Beautiful Blogger and Honest Scrap awards. Just post 10 things about you and then pass the award on to 10 blogs you admire. I hope you have fun with it!
    .-= Lisa Almeda Sumner´s last blog ..The Perks of Being a Blogger =-.

    • Let me try this again. I mean to say that “Serena I think your blog is fabulous” and all the rest. Forgive my blooper; after a long day of teaching high school I was determined to complete my task! And that was after having gone to do my taxes after school (ouch!). Maybe I should have waited until I was more rested, but I still want to give this site the awards, if you want to play. Best regards.
      .-= Lisa Almeda Sumner´s last blog ..The Perks of Being a Blogger =-.

  5. This sounds like a remarkable book and one I would probably like. It reminds me a bit of a book I reviewed back in January–in terms of the constant watchfulness of neighbors on neighbors. Thank you for your great review, Serena.
    .-= Literary Feline´s last blog ..Happy April Fool’s Day from Riley and Literary Feline =-.

  6. what a beautiful review–and a gorgeous book cover!

    i haven’t heard of this author or the novel but am intrigued by your review and synopsis. i can’t fathom living in such difficult times as the ones you described. i can’t imagine the scrutiny that auda must face and look forward to picking this one up. thanks!

  7. Oh, I’m so glad you liked it! I think it sounds like a great book! I can’t imagine living in a time when you had to watch everything you did for fear of being accused of something. That must have been difficult, at best!

    Love your review!