Title: The Company Daughters
Author: Samantha Rajaram
Publication Day: Oct 30th 2020
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.
Life has not always been easy for Jana Beil. She is only a young girl when she escapes the clutches of her violent father. Jana rather be in the streets and hungry than living with a drunk and abusive man. This leads Her hungry most nights, sleeping in alleyways with rats and other bugs. Finally, having enough, Jana sets out to find a job and after the 18th door is knocked she lands herself a servant position with the Reynst family. Master Reynst and his daughter Sonjte are kind to Jana and so she finally gets to have a room to herself, food in her belly and a friend of sorts in Sontje. Life is finally easier until the Reynst’s lose their fortune forcing both Sontje and Jana to become company daughters.
Samantha Rajaram has taken a slice of history and poured her heart and soul into The Company Daughters. Her debut novel is rich in history, atmospheric and shows the harsh realities of women during the 17th century. Life during this time was not always kind to women, who really didn’t have a voice. You were either born into wealth or born poor trying to earn a decent living while trying desperately to stay out of working in a brothel.
The Dutch east Indies Company was looking for company daughters. Young women looking to escape Amseterdam due to unfortunate circumstances, to make a better life as wives of settlers in Batavia (present day Jakarta, Indonesia.) Here is where Jana and Sontje find themselves and here is where the story really takes off and shines. Rajaram really writes some heartbreaking and heart wrenching scenes that really pull on your emotions.There are many themes of this story including same sex attraction and falling in love in a time period where it is frowned upon. I really enjoyed how close Jana and Sontje become and the love they share with each other. They only have each other to lean on.
The story is broken up into three sections and each section has its own trials and tribulations as well as both Jana and Sontje learning how to adjust in each new chapter in their lives. But, there is one central theme running through each part and that is how strong women are even faced with adversity in a world where women were often scene but not heard.
If you love historical fiction rich in history and a storyline that can at times bring you to tears, then you definitely do not want to miss out on reading The Company Daughters. This is a definite five star read. I still can’t believe this is a debut novel! Well written, deeply emotional and yet at the same time uplifting.
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.
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