Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Silk Merchant's Daughter by Dinah Jefferies

The Silk Merchant's Daughter
By Dinah Jefferies
Published by Viking/Penguin (E-book and Hardback out now; Paperback - 14 July 2016)
ISBN: 978-0241248621

Publisher's description
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.

My verdict
The Silk Merchant's Daughter is a fascinating tale of a young woman torn between two cultures, thanks to her mixed parentage. Nicole's father is a wealthy French silk merchant while her mother (who died in childbirth) was Vietnamese. The book is set at a time of turmoil in Vietnam, as militant rebels want to end French rule.

The book is beautifully descriptive, bringing 1950s Vietnam to life. I was engrossed in the culture references and political background, as the author transported me to Hanoi - with its sights, sounds and aromas. Initially Nicole knows little about her Vietnamese background. But when her father gives her an abandoned silk shop in the Vietnamese quarter, she gradually learns more about her mother's heritage and about where she herself belongs. In gaining her independence, she becomes involved in a world of corruption and espionage.

The Silk Merchant's Daughter was partly a coming of age novel, as Nicole grows from a naive teenager to a more level-headed young woman. The book is also a tale of sibling rivalry, between Nicole and her older sister Sylvie, a love story and a family saga. There were plenty of surprises throughout and it was very difficult to know which characters Nicole should trust.

I really enjoyed The Silk Merchant's Daughter and thought that the book packed a lot into its pages. I remained intrigued by the family secrets until the final page.

I received an Advance Reader Copy direct from the publisher and through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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