It is 1663 and the location is New Amersterdam which is rough, unsettled and corrupt and a dangerous place for orphans. With food scarce, disease looming and not to mention danger everywhere the everyday orphans are victims with no voice. Blandine van Couvering herself an orphan understands how hard it is to survive in this Dutch colony that is now Lower Manhattan.
This 22-year-old has fought hard for her preservation and to become a rising young trader. This is not the usual path for an oprhaned girl but Blandine is no ordinary girl. Enter Edward Drummond a would be grain merchant who is instantly smitten with Blandine but he has another reason for being in New Amsterdam. This is not just a love story in another time as they two are thrown into an adventure that takes the reader with them. And sometimes this novel takes you to places you do not want to go.
An orphan has gone missing that Blandine is trying to find and it is clear there is more going on as orphans are being killed. Blandine cannot just turn her back on them. While some fear it is demonic others believe it is just greedy privileged members of this colony.
Aet Visser, the colony’s orphanmaster, is quite a character author Jean Zimmerman has created. Blandine had escaped his grip when she fell into orphan status yet they have a very interesting relationship. Characters abound and there are many suspects but things are not easy in this colony and politics abounds.
One thing is clear there is a real adventure inside of THE ORPHANMASTER on every page. If you are looking for a harsh and violent glimpse into a different time and place that is wrapped in intrigue, politics that is most lively this is a definitely a summer read for you. The book trailer sets the stage for the backdrop of THE ORPHANMASTER: http://youtu.be/KBFQirf-uhY.
I have two copies to give away of THE ORPHANMASTER thanks to the folks at Viking so be sure to leave a comment to be entered to win.
NOTE: The giveaway will close on Wednesday, July 18th at midnight PST and is open to U.S. Residents only
Q & A with the author Jean Zimmerman who did an amazing job bringing thie reality of New Amsterdam to life within the pages of THE ORPHANMASTER:
To produce its powerful effects, THE ORPHANMASTER mingles historical fact with some imaginative storytelling. What are some of the more surprising discoveries that you happened on in your research?
I found a map that was drawn in 1660, the first street plan of Manhattan , which conveys every street, structure, meadow and garden in the settlement. It was the world of my characters, and it was the geographical jumping-off point of my work. Also vital was the discovery of the orphanmaster function, an official job that was needed because of the dire trend toward parental deaths through sickness, shipwrecks or Indian incursions. And I also was surprised to learn about the sport of pulling the goose!
One of your nonfiction books concerns a colonial-era she-merchant similar to THE ORPHANMASTER’s heroine, Blandine van Couvering. What are the major differences between the fictional heroine and her real-life precursor?
For my earlier book, The Women of the House, I researched a trader named Margaret Hardenbroeck, who through smarts and sheer force of will became the richest woman in the colony that would become New York . She-merchants were common in New Amsterdam , where there were roughly two hundred female traders out of a population of 1,500 settlers—a very high percentage. Women such as Margaret Hardenbroeck (and Blandine van Couvering in THE ORPHANMASTER) loved the excitement of commerce, especially the high-end, high-status commodities like fur. Blandine is a young merchant, still earnestly trying to work her way up. But she feels the thrill of trade in her bones.
What remains today of Blandine and Drummond’s New Amsterdam ?
The Manhattan of today is still haunted by the ghost of New Amsterdam . New York ’s commercial imperative and devotion to progress have buried the past in cement, but the streets of the past exist largely as they did. You can walk Stone Street , Pearl Street or Broadway and see just where Blandine kept her dwelling-house or where she made her way across the canal at low tide. You can feel a poignant vestige of what was, and if you imagine intently, still hear the creaking of the Dutch windmills.
What are you working on now?
A novel about a girl who was raised in the wild, displayed at a sideshow in Virginia City , Nevada , and adopted by a well-to-do couple in 1875 Manhattan to be trained up as a debutante. Mysterious killings ensue, and she must track down the murderer before he gets to her. A darker side of the Gilded Age.