Jana Beil, a servant in 17th-century Amsterdam, alongside her companion Sontja, signs up to be a ‘company daughter’ — a mail-order bride to settlers in the far Dutch colonial East Indies. Based on true history, these two women undertake a dangerous and deadly sea journey to the colony of Batavia — present-day Indonesia — to start a new life there as wives to the men they know nothing about.
THE COMPANY DAUGHTERS
by Samantha Rajaram
Bookouture , Fall 2020
Jana Beil has learned that life rarely provides moments of joy. Indeed, all of Amsterdam in 1616 is less concerned with happiness than with maintaining appearances. But when she begins working as a servant for the wealthy and kind Reynst family, she finds some peace and begins to secretly fall in love with Sontja, the beautiful daughter of the house. However, when Master Reynst loses his fortune through a bad investment with the VOC (the Dutch version of the East India Company), everything changes. Unable to afford her wage, the Reynsts’ let Jana go and she is back on the street again, desperately searching for work. Sontja, too, looks for ways to make enough money to get by, but when her father drinks himself to death, their house is sold to debtors, leaving both girls without a future. With no other choice, Sontja becomes a Company Daughter and sails to the colonial outpost of Batavia to marry a Dutch settler. Unable to envision a life without her, Jana also signs up for the voyage. The two embark on a lengthy, dangerous journey to Batavia, which will end with weddings to miserable old men — not the young, strapping soldiers they were promised. Despite all the hardships, Jana’s life slowly fills with wonder, beauty, and love as she sheds the resignation of her old life to finally reach out for what she truly wants.
Samantha Rajaram is a former attorney and current professor of English in the California Bay Area. She is also a Katha award-winning short story writer, having been published in national magazines such as India Currents and the U.S. Lighthouse Society Journal. This is her debut novel.