It gives me great pleasure to share my review with you on publication day (hardcover and digital formats) for Dinah’s third novel, The Silk Merchant’s Daughter.
Dinah’s debut, The Separation was a keeper for me. It was a very powerful novel and provoked such strong emotions. The Tea Planter’s Wife didn’t have quite that affect on me but once again, the settings were brought to life and Dinah’s writing was beautiful. What can I say about The Silk Merchant’s Daughter? It is one of my top picks for 2016 … and I don’t think my review will be able to do it justice.
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Viking (25 Feb. 2016)
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 3180 KB
Publisher: Penguin (25 Feb. 2016)
Dinah Jefferies’ stunning new novel is a gripping, unforgettable tale of a woman torn between two worlds…
1952, French Indochina. Since her mother’s death, eighteen-year-old half-French, half-Vietnamese Nicole has been living in the shadow of her beautiful older sister, Sylvie. When Sylvie is handed control of the family silk business, Nicole is given an abandoned silk shop in the Vietnamese quarter of Hanoi. But the area is teeming with militant rebels who want to end French rule, by any means possible. For the first time, Nicole is awakened to the corruption of colonial rule – and her own family’s involvement shocks her to the core…
Tran, a notorious Vietnamese insurgent, seems to offer the perfect escape from her troubles, while Mark, a charming American trader, is the man she’s always dreamed of. But who can she trust in this world where no one is what they seem?
The Silk Merchant’s Daughter is a captivating tale of dark secrets, sisterly rivalry and love against the odds, enchantingly set in colonial era Vietnam.
From July 1952 in Hanoi through to the epilogue in 1955, main character Nicole evolves from a young woman who sees everything in black and white to a woman who has experienced all the shades of grey in-between. There are times when she is strong but at other times oh so vulnerable.
Living through the turmoil of French rule being eroded by the Vietminh, something she inadvertently sees leads her to question her father, sister Sylvie and boyfriend Mark. In fact all the way through the story it is hard, as the reader, to know just who to trust. Being of mixed race she neither fits with the French or the Vietnamese (although her looks give her some cover in the silk shop on the Silk Road) but the same is true for her family. Her French father and Sylvie treat her as if she is second best and the scapegoat of the family so she doesn’t belong there either. Fleeing only takes her through the most horrific experiences which only continue once she’s back in Hanoi. She learns harsh lessons and suffers depravity but there’s always a thread of the survivor in her experiences.
I love a story that shows me a different culture – a different way of living. Dinah’s writing transported me to Hanoi. The settings really do come alive with the sights and smells, the food, fashion and the people. You really have to experience this for yourself.
From the very first words on the page, The Silk Merchant’s Daughter has caught me up in a web of family, secrecy, lies, intrigue, love and politics. So much so that while I was reading I was also dreaming about Nicole and her life in Hanoi. Every available opportunity I’ve immersed myself back in this world. The story is that addictive. If you’re looking for a read with emotion, depth, characters who become as close to you as your own family and friends then The Silk Merchant’s Daughter should be on your shelf. A fascinating and engrossing read of a young women growing up in a country in turmoil.
There is a heartfelt letter from Dinah about The Tea Planter’s Wife and a list of people who she is thanking. How special is that!
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