Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Julie's Review: The Sandalwood Tree

The Sandalwood Tree: A Novel Summary: A sweeping novel that brings to life two love stories, ninety years apart, set against the rich backdrop of war-torn India. In 1947, American historian and veteran of WWII, Martin Mitchell, wins a Fulbright Fellowship to document the end of British rule in India. His wife, Evie, convinces him to take her and their young son along, hoping a shared adventure will mend their marriage, which has been strained by war. But other places, other wars. Martin and Evie find themselves stranded in a colonial bungalow in the Himalayas due to violence surrounding the partition of India between Hindus and Muslims. In that house, hidden behind a brick wall, Evie discovers a packet of old letters, which tell a strange and compelling story of love and war involving two young Englishwomen who lived in the same house in 1857. Drawn to their story, Evie embarks on a mission to piece together her Victorian mystery. Her search leads her through the bazaars and temples of India as well as the dying society of the British Raj. Along the way, Martin’s dark secret is exposed, unleashing a new wedge between Evie and him. As India struggles toward Independence, Evie struggles to save her marriage, pursuing her Victorian ghosts for answers. Bursting with lavish detail and vivid imagery of Calcutta and beyond, The Sandalwood Tree is a powerful story about betrayal, forgiveness, fate, and love. ~amazon.com

Review: Have I mentioned I love historical fiction? Have I mentioned I love historical fiction that has two separate and then connected plots going on? I'm sure I have, if not well I have now. Elle Newmark does exactly this in The Sandalwood Tree. It's an amazing story that tells the history of two significant events in India through the eyes of the women living through them. We first meet Evie as she is moving to India to live there while her husband, Martin, a historian researches the locals on their thoughts on the up coming Partition. Evie discovers a set of letters while she is cleaning the kitchen, as they are hidden in a brick. The story of Felicity and Adela starts to pull Evie into their lives. She starts to research them to see if there was anything noted in the local registry.

It is the story of Felicity and Adela that I found most interesting and intriguing. It was their story that I wanted to get lost in, much like Evie. I hungered for more. More letters, more information, more anything about them. I loved how their story was told through correspondence, a journal and then a mysterious book. I loved hearing about how two women lived together in the hills of India. How they were ahead of their time and could take care of themselves. Of course, with a handsome annuity from Felicity's family.

I wanted to know how their stories ended. Was it happy? Was it sad? I wanted to know all the things Evie did. Did Adela ever really adapt to life in India? Did Felicity and Adela always live together?

Of course, I wanted Martin and Evie to work out their problems. I wanted Martin to let go of the guilt and anger from the war. I wanted them to move on and be a family. Evie does well figuring out India on her own, even in the midst of turmoil within her marriage and within the country.

Ms. Newmark does an excellent job of weaving the two stories together and alternating the voices. Felicity, Adela and Evie are all distinct in personalities and in their storytelling. All three are women ahead of their time in how they live their lives.

She does an excellent job of describing India in both periods of historical significance. I could smell the smells and feel the dirt while I was reading the story. I've always thought of India as an exotic location and this book cemented that thought for me.

If you are looking for a great read of historical fiction that has a few twists thrown in, then you should definitely pick up The Sandalwood Tree.

Final Take: 4.5/5

Thank you to Tracee from Pump Up Your Book Promotion for including me on the book tour!



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1 comments :

Louise May 25, 2011 at 6:09 PM  

This book looks so good, as soon as I saw the cover I wanted it and having read your review I want it even more! It's now definitely going to be mentioned in Saturdays On My Wishlist with a link here so everyone else can see why I want it!

Louise
www.book-bliss.com

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