Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

I'm part of the Transworld Book Group! This book was read and reviewed as part of the Transworld Book Challenge. A dual time book linking the stories from both 1947 and the 1850's.
Martin still struggles to come to terms with the horrors he saw during WWII and so jumps at the opportunity to record the events of the end of colonisation in India for posterity.  His wife Evie hopes the move will allow them to get their marriage back on track but although their young son thrives in their new world, she finds life as a new memsahib difficult.  A chance find of old letters and journals from the mid nineteenth century enthralls her and finally give her the strength to make some difficult decisions.
Felicity was born in India but sent back to England for her education where she becomes great friends with Adela.  With the British Raj at it's peak they are expected to find good marriages in India, but they have other ideas and go "jungli".  Living an unconventional life they create scandal but find their own joy.
I found the main strength of this book was the vivid descriptions of the India which were lovingly done and full of colour and vibrancy.  For me the story of Evie was less interesting and although she finally learns to be less judgemental, I didn't really understand her.
The Adela and Felicity aspect was really good (although I felt the Sarah Walters touch was an unnecessary bolt on) and I wanted more of this, the difficulties of Victorian women taking charge of their own destinies are facinating and I became a bit frustrated in leaving this to go back to 1947!

I read "The Book of Unholy Mischief" by the same author and enjoyed it, but I do feel this is a more "complete" book.  It sweeps you up into a different time and culture and is well worth a look!