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.
I received this beautiful novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Poor Nicole is lost; all her life she has struggled to be more French like her father and her elegant sister, Sylvie, but she inherited more of her Vietnamese mother's looks. Nicole's mother died in childbirth, and she has always felt that her father and Sylvie blamed her. Sibling rivalry is a main theme, with Nicole constantly finding herself questioning Sylvie's motives. Sylvie is manipulative and I disliked her intensely at times. It is hard to find sympathy for her or her father, although reasons towards the end of the story do go some way to explain their behaviour.
Nicole lives in a city fraught with danger, caught up in the war between the French and the Vietnamese. She is torn in her identity, forced to choose to be either French or Vietnamese, her life dependant on her decision. And she is torn between two men – Trâ'n, who helps her discover her Vietnamese roots; and Mark, the handsome American who is more than the silk trader he professes to be. When she makes a choice, her life is changed beyond all recognition. But is it the right choice?
From the outset, Dinah Jefferies sets the exotic scenes in this story by describing scent and aroma, which she does throughout the book to great effect. She uses scent to evoke memories, both good and bad in Nicole. The pages are also filled with beautiful visual descriptions, which I've found can slow other books down, but somehow Dinah balances the pace perfectly with natural dialogue, building tension through the story as I was immersed in Nicole's story.
The story is full of self discovery, trauma, deception, and the horrors of war, but also of love. The descriptions of the beautiful countryside contrast with the corruption and atrocities within. Nicole's circumstances force her to grow strong in mind, spirit and body.
Like The Tea Planter's Wife, Jefferies' previous novel, The Silk Merchant's Daughter is an enthralling, beautifully written story, published on 25th February 2016.