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Watermark: A Novel of the Middle Ages

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  1,252 ratings  ·  207 reviews

The daughter of a papermaker in a small French village in the year 1320, mute from birth and forced to shun normal society, young Auda finds solace and escape in the wonder of the written word. Believed to be cursed by those who embrace ignorance and superstition, Auda's very survival is a testament to the strength of her spirit. But this is an age of Inquisition and into

Paperback, 1st, 331 pages
Published April 13th 2010 by Avon A (first published January 1st 2010)
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Average rating 3.50  · 
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 ·  1,252 ratings  ·  207 reviews

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Jul 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
I felt this book had real potential in the beginning, but the author lacked the necessary skill to successfully weave the story and lead its characters to a satisfying conclusion. One of its most detrimental flaws was the lack of clear conflict, which was messy and muddled. The author also overlooked the opportunity to explore the relationship between Auda and Jaime, which felt pasted together for plot convenience. Ultimately, the bizarre motivation for the main character, Auda, throwing herself ...more
May 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2010
This is obviously a first novel, with a very straightforward story devoid of sidelines or surprises. Auda is the daughter of a papermaker in the south of France in 1320. She is albino and mute, independent and observant; she and her father get dangerously mixed up with the Cathars and, inevitably, the Inquisition.

The milieu of this book--the world of middling tradesman in southern France during the Avignon papacy--is the best part. Even in this author's inexperienced hands, the outlines of the t
Amy Bruno
Feb 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 afflictio
Dec 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
This story is set during a period of Inquisition and intolerance, 14th century, when new ideas are considered heresy and the era, which is best illustrated by the development of papermaking from Moorish to Christian Spain and through the rest of Europe.

It is believed by some that papermaking advanced by heretical sects who needed cheap writing materials for their secret studies.

In the Middle Ages, Narbonne in France was known as a secluded place from heresy, while the rest of the Spain was sur
Tiffany Martin
Jan 17, 2019 rated it liked it
What a brilliant book! I adored Auda and her father as well as Jaime. What fantastic characters. I cannot imagine what it would have been like for an albino back in that time period but this book was an incredible look as to how it might have been. I could have done without a few sex scenes that were, for me, too graphic and completely unnecessary. Those removed me from the story, completely, and made me think they were written gratuitously. Luckily, there are only a few short blips like that an ...more
May 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
In Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran, Auda has the misfortune to be born an albino. Ruled by superstition and religious fanaticism, the midwife's helper decides to cut out Auda's tongue so that she won't spread any of the devil's lies. With this dramatic opening, Sankaran plunges us into the Dark Ages, a time in which being physically and intellectually different are considered dangerous.

As she grows up, Auda is sheltered by her father and sister, who fear that someday the villagers will blame their
Tara Chevrestt
Mar 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Jenny, Misfit
I guess I'm the first person not to be jumping up and down with joy after reading this novel, a story about a mute abino girl who is the daughter of papermaker in the middle ages, but here goes..

First, what I didn't like: Poncia, Auda's sister. If that woman wasn't already getting slapped around, I would have jumped in there and slapped her around myself. Her and her self rightousness had me cringeing throughout the reading of this. Also, despite fascinating facts regarding early papermaking (l
Jun 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Staci by: Author
Shelves: 2010-reads
My Thoughts: I found this book to be absorbing and amazingly imaginative. The Middle Ages come to life with the street fairs, the smells of the unwashed bodies, and the sights of the monks, self-flagellating priests, beggars, and the ones who don't want to be noticed. Aude had two strikes against her from birth: being mute (by force) and also having albino traits. Being her during this time would have been unnerving to say the least. She spends much of her life just trying to blend in and to not ...more
Lydia Presley
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 t
Feb 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
I absolutely love strong women characters! This book was about a girl who, for a reason I won't reveal, was taught to read by her father who was a papermaker. She was born in the middle ages when women and commoners were not taught to read and when papermaking hadn't found it's foothold in Europe yet. It was a time when parchment was still being used by the Church and the nobles and when people were being tortured and killed because of heresy accusations.

The girl, Auda, who was different from b
Nov 30, 2010 rated it it was ok
I really need to stop reading books about the middle ages, because I latch onto the parts that aren't historically accurate and they ruin an entire book for me. With "Watermark," I couldn't get past the fact that the main character was 20 years old and her relatives kept saying that she was just getting to the age where she should be married. Huh??

Even though all of the details about paper making may have been well-researched (it's not something I know a ton about), couldn't Sankaran have done
May 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book has an amazing first half. I loved it. In chapter one I found myself aching to nurture and protect a newborn who had had her tongue cut out for being albino- a "devil child". You'll care for Auda from the start. Then the writing fell apart and I lost interest. The poor editing is is laughable, the hyper-focus on paper making is boring, the descriptive adultry scene is superfluous, as always. Lastly, Auda, spared from death and expected to do great things, doesn't do much beyond survivi ...more
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
Did not finish.

The first two chapters set the tone for a great story, but then the chapters fell flat. I was going to push through, because I don't like quitting a book just because I find the book boring, but I will quit when I come across a graphic sex scene, and especially if that sex is an adulterous act. I feel like sex is meant to be had, not graphically written about to fuel someone's fantasy.

Sadly, I was actually happy to put this book down, because I was sooooooooo done with with the
Tony Ford
May 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
I did not enjoy this book, though the author is a good writer. She creates a believable setting and sympathetic characters with good dialogue. Looking at the other reviews, I think I'm the only male ever to read this book. I understand why. For most of the book, the main character just walks around and "feels" things, then writes some crap poetry. The last part of the book a little something happens, but most of the story lines are left dangling. Good author, but she needs to find a good story t ...more
Ellie Franzmeier
Interesting read about the effects of the Inquisition on a small town. The secondary characters were far more interesting and nuanced than the main ones, aside from the narrator. There was a thread of the narrator's mother sacrificing her life for her daughter that didn't really go anywhere, when it could have been a way better source of motivation and tied basically everything together at the end. Mostly I liked the setting and the descriptions of the illuminations and making paper.
Robin O'Brien
Dec 26, 2013 rated it liked it
I liked this story and learning about what happened in France during this time in history. It was sad to learn how people of the church rejected others using christianity. It reminded me of the stories of the puritains in colonial days who acused people of being witches. I also enjoyed learning about the first days of paper making.
Oct 18, 2019 rated it liked it

This was a good read. Middle ages...1300 France and a albino girl is born to a papermaker. The story is interesting and built on actual history of the Inquisition and women's lot in life during this time period with lots of facts about paper making in Medieval times. At the end, the author gives a summary of the history of paper making along with an actual recipe to make your own as she did when doing research to write this novel.
May 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-fiction
I really enjoyed this book and it was a strong debut novel.
It greats for a quick read if you after a story that doesn't try to over complicate itself as it's straight to the point and has a clear start and end.
Alough I would argue some areas felt to coincidental it didnt hinder the story nor make anything feel too forced
I would recommend this story if you do enjoy histories that also give you some knowledge (in this case papermaking) of the time
Joy Murray
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
Very compelling. A lot of the history of paper and the suspicion of the church about how it will bring evil ideas to the people -- since paper is cheaper than parchment. The fear of literacy and alternative religious ideas was pretty much the ethic of the day, especially during the Inquisition. A small window into the brutality and innovation of the Middle Ages.
Oct 17, 2019 rated it liked it
I read this one on a cruise. For some reason, parts of it seemed familiar as though I had read this book several years ago. Maybe I did or I read something very similar. This is the story of an albino woman and her family during the 1300s when the Inquisition came to France. Not a bad read. The historical content was interesting especially about Catharism (considered heretical at that time).
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant! Watermark is an excellent historical fiction novel set in the middle ages. Beautifully written, well researched, wonderful characterizations and fascinating story line kept enthralled, Five stars.
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
I do not usually read this time period, but after an uncertain start I realized that every time I picked up this book (every evening for a bit) I would get so caught up in the tale that it took me a minute to come back to my own reality.
Nov 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Great time period - enjoyed
Jan 20, 2018 rated it liked it
The story itself deserves four stars, but the writing becomes very poor towards the end of the novel and editing appears non-existent throughout, to the point of being vey distracting.
Apr 01, 2018 rated it liked it
A good story. Written at maybe the eighth grade level.
Sep 17, 2018 rated it liked it
The historical background was very interesting but the plot and characters were just short of totally successful. Still, I kept reading.
Phyllis Stewart
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. You must have an interest in the middle ages, however. It was a great story of a young girl, probably an albino , heresy issues of the day and papermaking.
Jenny Q
Apr 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4.5 Stars out of 5

From the Back Cover:

The daughter of a papermaker in a small French village in the year 1320 - mute from birth and forced to shun normal society - young Auda finds solace and escape in the wonder of the written word. Believed to be cursed by those who embrace ignorance and superstition, Auda's very survival is a testament to the strength of her spirit. But this is an age of Inquisition and intolerance, when difference and defiance are punishable "sins" and new ideas are
May 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In Narbonne, France, in the year 1320, a midwife and her apprentice aid a woman in the desperate throes of childbirth. The baby lies trapped in her belly and the mother is faced with a terrible decision 13 cut the baby from her belly or both she and the child will die. But when the child is sprung from the womb, it is evident there is something amiss with the child who is born with unnaturally white skin and odd-coloured eyes. Believing the child is from the devil, the apprentice flees with the ...more
Jul 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a first novel by a new author of promise. She has written a superb, historically accurate and tantalizing novel of the Middle Ages. It takes place in France in the medieval town of Narbonne. It is also the time period when the Inquisition was being enacted instilling fear in all the land. Auda is born an albino and must hide her features from the public view as Inquisitors are frequently about looking for witches. Those who see her are afraid of her appearance and with the superstition o ...more
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