Thursday, December 3, 2020

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: Anke The Beginning, by Anas Hamshari and Caroline Snodgress


Living in the city of Mechelen, just south of once-prosperous Antwerp, in the aftermath of the Thirty Years’ War, Anke Verhaegen, an ambitious nineteen-year-old, is determined to make the most of her life.

When her brother Johan suggests crossing the Atlantic to New Netherland, Anke knows this is her destiny. Together, the two set about attempting to secure passage across the sea.

Before long, their plans are in motion, and hopes are high. Yet, with vengeful enemies, secrecy, and danger on the high sea waiting to be faced, will Anke really be able to secure a better life for herself?


“She was glorious once,” the incumbent cloth merchants of Antwerp often said, “this flourishing city by the North Sea. Her glory may have faded, but her beauty remains.”

My grandfather used to say the same almost every time he told me a new bedtime story. He was my father’s father, who lived in our house before us with his wife and six other children. I remember him as a fixture of the household, along with my grandmother. Though, while she always seemed to be knitting or dusting or arranging flowers in vases, my grandfather was like the heavy wardrobe in the main bedroom upstairs, or the sturdy table in the dining room. He was unmoving, silent, always seated beside a roaring fire, with a cigar—a habit he had picked up from the Spaniards who returned from the New World—between his lips or his fingers. When the sun had gone down and the fire burned low, he would rise stiffly from his seat and make his way up to the nursery, where I lay awake waiting for him. Only then would he become animated, the words falling fast from his lips, supplanting the plain little room with images of grandeur. When he died, it felt like that world went with him.

Thankfully, he wasn’t the only one to tell me of our Golden Age. Even if there was no one left who had lived through those days, the splendor of it lived on in stories. Every merchant from every Flemish province couldn’t stop talking about Antwerp’s past grandiosity. Unfortunately, I wasn’t born during that golden era. Still, every story about the past gave people like me hope, and it made me believe that anything and anyone can rise from the ashes. I had faith that prosperity would return, but, more importantly, I knew that if it didn’t, I would not hesitate to seek it out myself.

You must be wondering, now, who I am and what my story is. We’ll come to that soon enough, but first, allow me to share one truth about life: every great story has a beginning. To understand mine, let me take you back to the golden days of Antwerp. Thousands of foreign merchants used to reside in the capital city. Though my generation was born a century too late to see this for ourselves, words from our grandfathers painted a vivid image in our minds of life here throughout the first half of the sixteenth century.

Each day, hundreds of ships passed by Antwerp’s port. There were English ships laden with fine wool, Portuguese caravels fraught with Indian pepper and Ceylonese cinnamon, and Baltic trade cogs bringing in musky, rich ambers from Muscovian tree resin. Ships took turns to unload their cargo. On land, thousands of trade carts went in and out of the city gates every week. Every merchant was eager to sell their wares and commodities in Antwerp’s market.

It was the wealthiest city in the continent, and one of the largest—the crown jewel among the countless European cities enriched by trade. The exploration had begun in Portugal, a century before, with their caravels and bold explorers. Soon everyone was vying for prosperous trade routes. Potential colonies became as alluring as gold or spices. The New World attracted men in droves, washing up on those shores in their hulking ships, while other entrepreneurs went east to trade in India and China. And, at the heart of this web, it seemed, lay Antwerp—the sugar capital, the banking hub, a cosmopolitan heaven.

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About the Authors


Anas Hamshari

 Anas Hamshari is an established businessman residing in the State of Kuwait, and an author of one personal growth book and two historical fiction novels. Anas has been a lifelong writer and first began creating medieval fiction tales and short stories when he was seven years old. In June 2020, Anas formed Exotic Reads, a historical fiction self-publishing division in one of his main businesses, Exotic Flavor. Exotic Reads will be self-publishing a variety of historical fiction novels in the weeks, months, and years to come.

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Caroline Snodgress

 Caroline Snodgress is a first-time author but a long-time writer and ghostwriter. As an Echols Scholar at the University of Virginia, she is planning to double major in English and History, and is thoroughly enjoying taking as many fiction writing classes as she can fit into her schedule. When not in Charlottesville, she lives with her family just outside of Richmond, reading eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature and watching plenty of period dramas in her spare time.

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