The moment I read about The Company Daughters I was at once drawn to reading this book, and not just because of its beautiful cover! Since I live in India, I’m always interested in reading of the colonial times. Though this book is about the Dutch and not the British, the Dutch did have a presence in India too with their Dutch East India company.
The Company Daughters
Wanted: Company Daughters. Virtuous young ladies to become the brides of industrious settlers in a foreign land. The Company will pay the cost of the lady’s dowry and travel. Returns not permitted, orphans preferred.
Amsterdam, 1620. Jana Beil has learned that life rarely provides moments of joy. Having run away from a violent father, her days are spent searching for work in an effort to stay out of the city brothels, where desperate women trade their bodies for a mouthful of bread. But when Jana is hired as a servant for the wealthy and kind Master Reynst and his beautiful daughter Sontje, Jana’s future begins to look brighter.
But then Master Reynst loses his fortune on a bad investment, and everything changes. The house is sold to creditors, leaving Jana back on the street and Sontje without a future.
With no other choice, Jana and Sontje are forced to sign with the East India Company as Company Daughters: sailing to a colonial Dutch outpost to become the brides of male settlers they know nothing about. With fear in their hearts, the girls begin their journey – but what awaits them on the other side of the world is nothing like what they’ve been promised…
Based on true history, this is a beautiful and sensual historical novel, perfect for fans of The Girl with the Pearl Earring, The Miniaturist and The Indigo Girl.
This is essentially a tale of how women are often treated as commodities. This is true all through history. Even as I was reading this beautiful story, I thought of the millions of women in India and around the world who continue to be forced by circumstances and culture to marry men they do not know and move to lands that are so alien to them. But even more than that this is a story of survival, grit, determination and the ability to rise above and even triumph over adverse circumstances.
Rajaram uses vivid imagery as across continents with Jana and Sontje from the cold streets of Amsterdam to the warmer climes of Batavia. How the relationship between the two women – once mistress and maid – evolves is also fascinating.
The author really brought to light the dark history of colonial times – racism, slavery, injustice, cruelty to women and above greed that put power and money over human rights.
It’s hard to believe that this is a debut novel for the author. It’s so beautifully written – steeped in history and yet she manages to make the characters so believable and the story so moving.
Buy The Company Daughters
Meet The Author
Samantha Rajaram spent most of her childhood in Gillette, Wyoming, where she and her family were the first Indian-Americans to live in the community. As a law student, she focused on social justice and international human rights law with a focus on female sex trafficking.
She is now an educator, and currently teaches composition at Chabot College in Hayward, California. She lives in the California Bay Area with her three children.
Many thanks to Bookouture for an advanced reader’s copy of this book via Netgalley.