In Vanitha Sankaran's novel Watermark, the daughter of a papermaker in a small French village in the year 1320—mute from birth and forced to shun normal society—finds solace and escape in the wonder of the written word. This acclaimed historical novel also includes fascinating information about the making of paper - and thus, the beginning of the spead of language and literature. Today Sankaran shares with us her interest in paper making and how and why it found its way into her novel.
When I decided to write my first novel, I knew right away it would be about papermaking. Paper has always fascinated me, the way it is used not just to record someone's imagination, but also to share philosophies, visions, and yes, the good story. And, like most writers, I have a deep love for books. So what better place to start my career as a novelist than to explore the mystery of the written word and the power words have to capture people's hearts?
Paper has been around in one form or another since abut 105 AD; however, my interest in the use of paper coalesces around the time when storytelling transitioned from an oral to written form, in the Middle Ages. Why? Well, first of all, because I am a storyteller and second because the use of writing to tell tales also changed the way the tale was told. Imagine if you no longer have to use repetition and mnemonics to help a story stick in your audience's minds. Imagine, instead, that you can play with language, search for the right word instead of the memorable one. Paper, a relatively cheap writing material compared to the alternatives at the time, had a profound impact on how stories were passed on and preserved through time.
For me, paper also has a certain mysterious quality to it. What words does a person choose to record on a clean sheet of paper? What does she leave out? What is she really trying to say? I've explored this mystery in my debut novel, Watermark, through my protagonist, Auda, a mute girl who uses writing and poetry not just to discover her voice, but to make sense of the tumultuous clash of ideas and religions that marked the Middle Ages.Through her eyes, and her voice, Watermark tells the story of one young girl who battles her own challenges, and those of society around her, to express herself and find a love that sustains her in good times and in bad.
Browse inside Watermark, check out the reading group guide, visit Vanitha Sankaran's website and watch the dramatic book trailer below. To find out what other book bloggers are saying, check out the blog tour the book is currently on.