Monday, 15 August 2011

Review of The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

The Sandalwood Tree is a powerful story of love and scandal spanning almost one hundred years.

The story unfolds from two perspectives; that of Evie Mitchell who has arrived in India in 1947 just before the end of the Raj and through the letters and journals of two Victorian ladies living in the same bungalow in Masoorla in the 1850s.
Evie’s husband Martin Mitchell returns from the horrors of the second World War a changed man and when he is offered a Fulbright Scholarship to document the end of the Raj, Evie jumps at the chance of moving to India with their young son hoping that a new setting may reignite their marriage.

Moving to their small bungalow near to Simla, Evie unexpectedly finds some letters hidden behind a loose brick in the kitchen. While her marriage appears to deteriorate, she buries herself in the mystery of deciphering the letters and the identity of the authors.

The plot then moves between 1947 and the 1850’s following Felicity and Adela in England and India. Although, we only hear from felicity and Adela in the third person I felt as if I knew them and really liked Felicity’s character. In her desperation and loneliness Evie becomes obsessed with their story and their fate and it is here that the book excels by managing to intertwine these two different eras together perfectly.

The ending was fantastic and really put everything into place. I enjoyed this book very much; it was so evocative and mesmerizing that I really felt I was there in India smelling the spices and perfumes at the bazaar and hearing the jangling of the bracelets as people walked around. I will definitely be looking out for other works by Elle Newmark.

I read this book as part of the Transworld Book Group Reading Challenge.

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