Friday, 26 August 2011

The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

This is the first book I have received via the Transworld Book Group.
Transworld Book Group
I'm part of the Transworld Book Group

The story is set just after the Second World War and a young American couple go with their small son to live in India, where the husband is continuing his studies. It is a time of tremendous upheaval in India with the end of the British Raj and the imposition of Partition. Martin Mitchell's particular area of study involves Partition and he is often away doing his research, leaving his wife Evie and son Billy alone. The Mitchell's marriage is in trouble, Martin is haunted by his experiences during the war, but won't open up to Evie. She in turn feels abandoned and rejected.
In the kitchen of their house Evie finds some letters belonging to previous tenants of the house, two Victorian women named Adela Winfield and Felicity Chadwick. She becomes fascinated by them and tries to find out more about them. The story goes back and forward between the stories of Evie and Martin in 1947 and Adela and Felicity in the nineteenth century. I thought was a good device and I was as anxious as Evie to find out what happened to the two Victorian women.
One of the things I liked best about this book was its descriptions of India. It's a place I've always wanted to visit and I want to even more after reading this. It is set in Simla, which was one of the most popular hill stations for the Raj, and judging from this book a very beautiful place. Of course there is immense poverty right beside the beauty, which Evie finds troubling.
I think the only niggle I have about this book is that sometimes I felt that Adela and Felicity's story was a little rushed. Apart from that I thoroughly enjoyed the book and found it a real page turner.


  1. I read this recently for the Transworld challenge and I really enjoyed it too. The descriptions of India were beautiful. I agree that maybe more time could have been spent on the Adela and Felicity storyline, though I did find Evie's story equally interesting so it wasn't too much of a problem.

  2. Helen, I think India is a fascinating country and this book has encouraged me to read more books set there. I can't wait to get the next book in the challenge. I notice from your blog that you've read the first in the Bryant and May series. The copy at my library has gone missing, so they're having to order it in. I hope it arrives before I get The Water Room.

  3. I read this for the Transworld challenge too and loved it - everyone I've heard talk about it has been very positive.

  4. Yvann, yes it was a good read. I like books that go back and forward in time. The Transworld challenge is great isn't it?