So what’s it about?
Set in Cologne in the 14th Century, The Draper’s Daughter focuses on the family Hardenstein. Traders in cloth, they are struggling to maintain their success in a city tarnished by a mass cull of it’s Jewish population only a few years previously. Elisabeth and her twin brother Stephen are both hoping to continue the family business and while Stephen is away learning elsewhere, Elisabeth is apprentice to her father.
Of course this was all rather unorthodox in those days but Elisabeth wins the esteem of her father who wishes for her to take on the business after him over her wastrel of a brother. Unfortunately, he suffers a stroke before his wishes are carried out and Elisabeth must fight for her place among the esteemed traders of Germany.
This is a story of feminist triumph in an era of unimaginable hardship. Women had little to no power or influence which we, despite current gender divides, cannot begin to imagine today. We have it pretty good really in comparison!
What I thought
The Draper’s Daughter is an intriguing little tale; interesting and powerful. It highlights Elisabeth’s struggles well. Casta really makes you believe in her strength of character. It’s obvious from the start which of the people you are supposed to love and loath which is both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, you know who the root for (the clue is in the title after all!). But, on the other, there is no mystery, no character build-up and it takes away a little of the tension.
There were times when the writing lacked depth and I felt that a lot of the dialogue between characters was more written as filler without adding much to the story. I ended up skimming over irrelevant, fluffy and somewhat awkward bits of prose that just didn’t fit. This could be the translation but it felt a little contrived in parts which was a great shame.
Overall, this is a solid novel. It’s enjoyable from start to finish and not at all depressing which, lets face it, is a rarity nowadays.