The Silk Merchant’s Daughter by Dinah Jeffries

I would like to read the Silk Merchant’s Daughter, by Dinah Jefferies. The novel is set in and around Hanoi during the first Indochina War, when America was providing support to the French forces in an attempt to prevent the spread of communism, should the native Vietnamese population, with the support of China and the USSR, succeed in overthrowing the colonial government, war seems imminent.

The story features 18 year old Nicole, daughter of a Vietnamese mother and French father, who is struggling with her identity. She admired her beautiful, older sister who oozed French chic. Nicole had more of her mother’s looks and being half French faced much racism living in French Indochina in 1952. The novel starts at Nicole Duval’s eighteenth birthday party where her older sister, Sylvie, introduces her to a handsome American silk trader named Mark Jenson. He is not all he seems. Nicole and Sylvie are métisse having been born of a French father and a Vietnamese mother. Their father is a wealthy silk merchant who also holds a secretive position within the colonial government. Their mother died in childbirth.

Nicole lives in the shadow of her sister. She has inherited her mother’s Vietnamese looks and considers herself clumsy and ugly beside Sylvie’s French features and elegance. Their father, a fierce supporter of the benefits of French rule, has always favoured his elder daughter. When he transfers the running of the family business to Sylvie, giving Nicole only an abandoned shop to revitalise, she feels shunned by them both. However Nicole finds that she enjoys working in her shop, which is located in the ancient quarter of the city, and then Nicole takes rather a shine to Mark Despite not knowing an awful lot about him. Then she sees her father commit a heinous act to which Mark and Sylvie appear complicit. She is utterly disgusted with this terrible event she has witnessed and her whole outlook on her life and loved ones is shaken. She doesn’t know who to trust or who to turn to.

She also meets a Vietnamese lad named Tran and begins to spend time With her new Vietnamese friends discussing the cruelties inflicted by the French in their attempts to maintain control of the country and she finds her loyalties tested. In an attempt to find her place in this changing world, Nicole soon discovers that, life with Tran is full of danger she didn’t expect and Begins to fear for her life and begins to wonder whether she will see her family and Mark again and she is forced to make a difficult choice.

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