TITLE : The Company Daughters
AUTHOR : Samantha Rajaram
GENRE : Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
FR RATING : ⭐⭐⭐⭐( 4 Stars)
DATE OF PUBLISHING : October 30th 2020
DISCLAIMER : Thank you, Netgalley and Bookouture for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am leaving this review voluntarily.
The Company Daughters is a sweeping tale of what it means to be a woman in a world where the odds are always stacked against them. Samantha Rajaram is, without a doubt, talented in spinning stories by drawing inspiration from real-life events. The accounts were, in my opinion, well-researched to provide an authentic portrayal of the conditions of a colonized nation. It also depicts the circumstances of the women who were taken from their home countries to serve the settler men. I have been reading so many character-driven historical fiction stories based on true-events talking about the effects of colonization on communities and the women as well. This novel had similar themes, and I have to say it did not disappoint either in delivering a compelling story with a strong protagonist.
Samantha Rajaram through The Company Daughters tells us the story of Jana, who escaped the violence of her father only to be thrust, into employment in the city brothels. Her life is full of hardship, and her goal is to stay employed to escape the choices put on her. Life hasn’t been kind to her at all, and despite all of her horrible experiences, she doesn’t let them deter her from earning an honest living without sacrificing her soul. She gets hired as a servant for the Reynst household, where she encounters a kind employer, a welcome change from her past. Things change for the best, and Jana hopes for a better future. Unfortunately, the good things never last, and Master Reynst loses his fortune in a bad investment leaving Jana and Sontje – Master Reynst’s daughter destitute. The two of them decide to sign-up for the Dutch East India Company’s Company Daughters system to escape their dire circumstances. The orphan daughters are taken to the colonial outposts as mail order brides to be married off to the settlers. Life in Batavia is not what they were promised, and they have to adjust to the new world and a distinct way of life. The story is brimming with hope, tragedies, and harsh realities of life. It talks about women’s resistance against an oppressive system that is, designed to benefit only men.
The unflinching and brutally honest portrayal of slavery, effects of colonization, cruelties inflicted on women, exploitation of minor groups, racism, and the superior attitude of the settlers is something that shines through the pages. The horrors and realities of poverty are also depicted truthfully, taking the readers through the lives of the characters. The writing style and the writing itself is engaging and completely. It pulls you in and continues to captivate you with the stories of the orphan daughters. The pacing is slower, and I enjoyed it, as well. Historical fiction, in my opinion, deserves to have a slower pace to set the tone for the novel.
When it comes to character-driven stories, I am all for it. And I am happy I picked this one up. There is beauty in tales filled with tragedies and horrors of life. The survival of these women under the difficult life choices made for them by older men is simply a marvel. It is admirable to see them being crafty and resourceful with the things they had. Their will and strength blew me away. There were grace and elegance in the women’s acceptance of their fate. It was a delight to see the characters grow and flourish. When it comes to the depiction of the societal hierarchy and the power structure, Samantha has done a brilliant job of delivering the untainted and unapologetic truth.
The more I read about colonial history through fiction, the more informed and aware I have become of the outlook colonizers had on life and race. Samantha’s storytelling is marvelous and holds you captive to the story making you cheer on the women and the marginalized. The characters were well-defined and layered. I loved the dynamics the orphan daughters had with one another. My only complaint is, I didn’t like the love interest for Jana in the story. I truly believe Jana deserved better. I found myself feeling like Jana was the one who was more in love than her love interest. I couldn’t ship the two of them, because of the self-centered way the love-interest behaved from the beginning. I thought it was one-sided, and Jana put more into the relationship. Other than that, I enjoyed the story so much.
Overall, this was an enjoyable read. I had a good time reading the book. I believe these untold and lesser-known colonial history needs to be brought to the attention of people. If you love slower-paced historical fiction featuring strong protagonists striving for a better life and rising from their challenging situations, then this story is for you. It is an inspiring story of the resistance of woman and their survival in a world where men define them and rule them. I loved the beautiful writing and elaborate descriptions. The story is a testament to the courage, strength, and perseverance of strong-minded women in a harsh world. I gave the book 4 stars, and I highly recommend checking it out. If you love learning more about colonial history, I recommend picking this one up.
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 ladies’ dowry and travel. Returns not permitted, orphans preferred.
Amsterdam, 1616. 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.
Then Master Reynst loses his fortune on a bad investment, and everything changes. The house is sold to creditors, leaving Jana back on the streets 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 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 Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Miniaturist and The Indigo Girl.