Thursday 11 August 2011

The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

I'm taking part in the Transworld Book Group Reading Challenge where bloggers can pick four titles from a selection of books to review on their blog.

I've just finished reading my first book; The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark.  I was delighted to get the chance to review this as I adored her first book; The Book of Unholy Mischief when I read it a few years ago.

The Sandalwood Tree is a joy to read, it's history, it's romance, and it's a little bit of suspense too.  

The tree of the title sits outside a small bungalow in Colonial India and in 1947 it is occupied by Americans Evie and Martin and their small son Billy.  

Martin is a World War Two veteran, he's currently in India doing research around the Raj.  Martin returned from the battlefields a changed man and Evie struggles to communicate with him, she worries that they are drifting apart and knows that if it were not for Billy, she would seriously consider leaving.

Evie is not the usual American wife abroad, she cleans her own house and only has two servants.    It is whilst she is cleaning one day that she chances upon some old letters that have been hidden behind a brick in her kitchen.    

The letters are correspondence between two women; Adela and Felicity who obviously lived in the bungalow in 1857.  There are parts missing from the letters and Evie is intrigued and decides that she must find out the whole of the story.

The story then flits back to 1857 where the reader is introduced to Adela and Felicity, as the novel continues it becomes a dual narrative, with chapters alternating between Evie and Adela.

‘I’m part of the Transworld Book Group!’
This really is a wonderfully well researched, compelling read.  The two stories are merged so well together, with both stories equally as fascinating.

Personally, I learned so much about the history of India from reading The Sandalwood Tree. Elle Newmark has not held back at all, she details the poverty and the barbarism aswell as the beautiful countryside, the food, the colours, the sounds and the smells.

I was very saddened to read that Elle Newmark died at the end of July this year, after a long illness.
My sympathies go out to her family - a very great and sad loss to the literary world.


  1. Sounds like a good read.
    I do like novels that have letters as part of the narrative.

    So sad to hear about the author.

  2. I loved this one as well. She made me feel as though I had been to India even though I never left my couch. I wasn't aware that she had dies -- you are right, it is a great loss to the literary world.

  3. It is terribly sad. I've loved both of her novels - both of them were excellent reads.

  4. I have joined this challenge and have also chosen this title as my first read as it seems have many other bloggers, all writing encouraging reviews.