Jacob de Zoet was a young Dutchman, a clerk, who fell in love with a beautiful young woman. They planned to marry, but her wealthy father had an objection. He believed that Jacob needed to prove himself worthy and to demonstrate that he could provide for his lovely daughter. He helped Jacob secure a job with the Dutch East India Trading Company. In their employ, he was to spend five years making his fortune and proving himself to his future father-in-law. Almost immediately Jacob set sail for Nagasaki, Japan. The year was 1799 in Japan’s Edo era, the age of the Shoguns.
Because he was an honest man, Jacob immediately fell afoul of the corrupt businessmen who oversaw the trading. He was consigned to a lowly job well below his skill level. Sometime his work was tedious and unrewarding, but he always worked with the same diligence, no matter the task. He did make some good friends, including the company doctor and a mysterious young woman who was a midwife. This woman had a facial disfigurement that had isolated her from most other people, and she was a woman of great intelligence and sense of self. With his work, his new relationships, and his hope for the future with his fiancé, he embarked on what proved to be an adventurous life