Dutch / Belgium (Flanders)

Zijdeman
(The silk man)

Vereecken, Kathleen (text)
Verster, Alain (illus.)
Tielt: Lannoo, 2013. – 163 p.
ISBN 978-94-014-0199-9

French Revolution | Silk trade | Father | Disappearance | Historical fiction | Coming-of-age novel

≫Zijdeman≪ is a historical novel, set in eighteenthcentury Paris. Camille and Louis’s father is a silk trader who did not return from China when he was supposed to. Brother and sister each deal with the uncertainty about their father in their own ways, and their narratives intertwine in an interesting way. Sixteen-year-old Camille takes action, helping her mother run their store and getting involved in the political upheavals of Louis XV’s rule. Eleven-yearold Louis  withdraws, fostering a nest of silkworms that he hopes will win his father’s  respect. The siblings’ contrasting strategies to cope with insecurity and loss is the recurring theme of this delicate novel, told in a moderate, well-balanced style. Just as the silk worms in the story have to morph into butterflies, Camille and Louis must grow up.

Vereecken daringly leaves the big questions of the novel unanswered, provoking her adolescent readers with the insecurity that life sometimes brings. (Age: 15+)