Monday, April 18, 2011

Review: The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Atria Books, 2011

'All we really have are our stories'

It is 1947 and Evie's husband, Martin, an historian, has been offered a scholarship to go to India and document the final days of British rule. Since returning from the war Martin has been a completely changed man from the person Evie fell in love with and married. Silent, withdrawn, avoiding the intimacy they once shared and haunted by terrible nightmares. Evie hopes that the time together in India with their son Billy will provide an opportunity to restore the relationship to what it once was.
But India in the throes of change only adds to the tension between them and Evie finds consolation in obsessive cleaning until one day she discovers a packet of hidden letters from the 1850's and finds a new purpose searching for the truth of the story of Felicity and Adela.

The story flows effortlessly between the two time periods and although ninety years separate the young women they have one thing in common. All of them step outside the boundaries of acceptable behaviour by refusing to become part of the ex-pat social circle preferring instead to embrace the real India, its people and customs. And it is this India that allows Elle Newmark to give full rein to her talent for vivid imagery and her ability to make the reader aware of every sense  - from saris to suttee, bazaars, temples, flowers and food -   the sights, the sounds and smells are very real.

India in both eras is in turmoil. In 1857 the Sepoy Rebellion was one of several uprisings that heralded the beginning of the fight for independence and a huge shock to British complacency unaware of unrest. Ninety years later the British Raj is in its final days , the partition of the country into India and Pakistan creating fear, violence and a hostility that still reverberates today. The book doesn't go into great historical depth but provides a most interesting look at these two pivotal times in Indian history.

It's a compelling book of interwoven relationship stories - between races and religions , cultures and customs .........and between people. The struggle to love again after loss, to forgive and find a new future makes moving reading.
I loved it!
I recommend!

I received a copy of The Sandalwood Tree to read and review from Pump Up Your Book

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you recommend this! I'm increasingly convinced that I should give this one a try!