Westerwald, Germany, in the middle of the 17th century
13-year-old Johanna has lost her entire family to the plague. All she has left is an unknown uncle who works as a potter in the potbakers‘ land. To survive the commotion of the Thirty Years’ War, her neighbor dresses her up as a boy. Johanna enjoys the new freedom she experiences along the way, and the opportunity to become a potter apprentice appeals to her. She keeps the truth from her uncle and soon shows an unusual talent as well as an unequalled passion. Will she be able to keep up the deception in a man’s world?
This is a story full of hope, despite depicting the horrors of one of the darkest chapters in European history. The Thirty Years’ War erased nearly half of the German population due to the fighting and plundering as well as starvation and the plague. Entire villages vanished from the face of the earth. It seems miraculous that in these trying times the art of pottery bloomed. Well researched right at the heart of the ‘Kannenbäckerland’, the potbakers’ land in the Midwest of Germany, Johanna’s tale will show readers colorful details of an old craft as well as taking them on an emotional rollercoaster ride.
“Due to her descriptive and vivid writing style, the author filled my mind with a sheer flood of pictures. Some of those were gruesome, but there were also quiet and beautiful moments. In short, Annette Spratte tells the wide range of Johanna’s story within the Thirty Years’ War in the Westerwald with such an intensity that the reader is right in the midst of it.”
“This very impressively written novel immediately captivated me. I could not put the book down. The characters, especially Johanna, are wonderfully crafted and described. Their development is believable.”
A lot of research went into this novel because the whole process of creating pottery without electricity fascinated me deeply. Can you imagine heating a kiln to a roaring 1200°C / 2192 °F with wood alone? Crucial to my research was a visit to the ceramics museum in Höhr-Grenzhausen, where I was able to admire original 17th century jugs and vases. It blew my mind. Below are some pictures so that you will know what the things Johanna created might have looked like.
Even today, clay from the Westerwald is exported worldwide due to its high quality.
The stunning cover for The Potbaker’s Niece was created by Florin Sayer-Gabor, alias 100covers4you.