Challenge Participant


Monday, 15 August 2011

The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

It is 1947, and Evie and Martin Mitchell have just arrived in the Indian village of Masoorla with their five-year-old son. But cracks soon appear in their marriage as Evie struggles to adapt to her new life, and Martin fails to bury unbearable wartime memories. When Evie finds a collection of letters, concealed deep in the brickwork of their rented bungalow, so begins an investigation that consumes her, allowing her to escape to another world, a hundred years earlier, and to the extraordinary friendship of two very different young women. And as Evie's fascination with her Victorian discoveries deepens, she unearths powerful secrets. But at what cost to her present, already fragile existence?

I have received this book as my first choice in the Transworld Book Club Reading Challenge.

There are two parts to this book; the first being the story of Evie, Martin and Billy Mitchell,1947 -,, who have moved to India with Martin's university work; and that of Felicity and Adela, 1844 -, two friends who lived in England and were sent to India to find a husband. The two stories become intertwined when Evie discovers some letters in their new home, hidden in the kitchen, between Felicity and Adela, and Evie begins to discover more and more about their life one hundred years previous as she discovers more diaries and letters around her home. 

I initially found it difficult to get into the book but by the time I was a quarter of the way into the book I was hooked and hardly moved over the weekend while I devoured the remainder. I found it very interesting as a look at Indian history with much of the story recalling both daily life in India and also the time of partition.  It also has alot about peoples perspectives and how mixed race relationships and unmarried mothers are perceived throughout the world in both India and England.

The writing style is excellent, with the story being told in the first person, from Evie's perspective, along with extracts from letters and diaries between Adela and Felicity, as well as third person when writing about Adela and Felicity's story. The author must have done loads of research when writing this book, there is so much fact and when the story reaches the Indian village and describes the bazaar, I could almost smell the air, it was so descriptive.
The two stories are both interesting and how Elle Newmark has intertwined them throughout the book is beautiful. There is a natural progression through the book and the ending is both beautiful and satisfying.

I was saddened to hear the Elle Newmark, the author, died in July 2011, after a long illness. The writing world has lost a great author. I am off to find her first book now.

Thank you to Transworld for sending me this book to review as part of the Transworld Book Club Reading Challenge.

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