Friday, May 6, 2011

A Marriage Grows Up

'The Sandalwood Tree'
Author: Elle Newmark

Format: ARC
Published: Atria; Apr. 2011
Pages: 368
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: A
Source: Pump Up Your Book Tours

Synopsis: 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. 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. 
Bursting with lavish detail and vivid imagery of Calcutta and beyond, The Sandalwood Tree is a powerful story about betrayal, forgiveness, fate, and love.

My Take: Having read Newmark's first book last year, The Book of Unholy Mischief (click for my review) and absolutely loved it, of course I was thrilled to be able to review her latest, The Sandalwood Tree. Then I learned it was set in one of my favorite time periods and locales, I kind of new I would love it. Newmark didn't let me down!

Evie is our leading lady. Sadly her marriage is faltering due to the after affects of WWII. She met and married her husband Martin before the war and they have a five-year-old son now but during the war, the man she had married has changed. Evie wants to save her marriage. It is now 1948 and Senator Fulbright wants to bring countries closer together, foster positive relationships and the Fulbright Scholarship is born, of which Martin is a recipient. He is going to India to study the end of the Raj, British rule, in India.

First, apart from the story going on between Evie and Martin, let me just say that the way the history of the Raj was woven in was fascinating. I didn't really know how it all went down when India was broken up into India and Pakistan and this book helped to explain what impact it had on the country and for that alone, I really enjoyed it.

Evie decides that if her little family are thrown into a new country together, alone, they will have to fend for themselves and rely on each other, therefor growing closer. Seems like a good idea. However, the strains just follow them and become more apparent. While alone in her home one day, Evie finds some letter squirrelled away behind a brick. The letters are between two British females in the 1850s. One in India, one in England writing back and forth. Evie soon wants to learn more and we get to have a trip back to India in the 1850s. What could have been confusing, totally wasn't. Instead, we got to learn more about the history of India and what the Raj was like in it's heyday in India and what two unconventional women had to do to survive.

If I told you much more, I would ruin the story. Suffice it to say, I loved this book and Newmark is fast becoming one of my favorite authors! Please, check this book out!

Cover Lust: I do like this cover. It's dark and mysterious but upon reading the book I am not sure when this scene occurred. Evie liked to dress more casually, wearing tunics in India and nothing about it really screams white woman in India.


  1. I have eyed this one and I am glad you liked it. it does sound wonderful and I do think I would like it

  2. I'm drawn to novels set in India and those set in WWII so I'm definitely adding this to my to-read list. Thanks for reviewing.

  3. I love to read about books that take place during a war. I often wonder what it was like to live in some of our past wars and in different countries. My dad was stationed in Persia during the war so maybe that is why I find it all so fascinating. I will be placing this on my must read list. Thanks for the great review!

  4. I'm not surprised to see this is great since her first book was too!

  5. Oh, yes! Now this looks like a book to pick up and read - the cover is incredible and the story sounds like it will pull me right in. I've not read this author's work before so it seems like I have a bit of catching up to do.

  6. Love the synopsis and it would definitely be interesting to read something set it India during that time period. Glad you liked this book. I'll add it to my Wishlist.

  7. i haven't read any books by her, but that's going to have to change soon now after reading your review!

  8. I do love the sound of this one, and thanks for no spoilers:)

  9. You've made a compelling case for this book and the author. I now after to know how the story ended. I'm like you - I'd like to know more about the history of India and Pakistan. This sounds like a good way to do that.

  10. I've just read this and absolutely loved it.


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