Read The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark Online


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 theirA 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....

Title : The Sandalwood Tree
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781416590590
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 368 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Sandalwood Tree Reviews

  • Elle Newmark
    2019-04-06 14:34

    I think The Sandalwood Tree is a humdinger of a story. Of course, I wrote it so I might be biased. It involves two love stories, 90 years apart, set in war-torn India. The research for this book was fascinating. We Americans do not ordinarily study Indian history (world history is usually limited to Europe) and reading about the drama and pageant that was the British Raj was colorful and gripping. I topped off all that reading with a trip to India, driving around northern India to check facts and collect sensory details for a feeling of authenticity. Writing The Sandalwood Tree was an adventure, and my life is richer for it.

  • Angela M
    2019-04-04 19:10

    What I liked best about this book was the beautiful, descriptive writing . Just a few pages in and I was there in India seeing what Evie sees as she first arrives in India - flowers , trees ,the market , and the people . I was glad to be reading it on my kindle so I could easily look up the flowers and trees mentioned as well as some of the Indian words and phrases. Many recent books have used the mechanism of alternating stories blending past and present . It didn't quite work here for me. It seemed too much like I was reading separate stories that just didn't connect for me. However, I was taken in by both stories and even though they felt separate to me, I was interested in what would happen to these characters.I liked the strong willed independent women we meet in Adela and Felicity who were willing to live their lives as they wished , in spite of the fact that their relationships were not acceptable in society . There's much to think about in this book : the political unrest in India in 1857 and in 1947, the cultural differences, the caste system ,and the poverty .While I loved the writing, the ending was a bit predictable and though there were similarities in both of the stories regarding what was happening in India ,I just didn't feel a connection between Evie and Adela and Felicity .3.5 stars if I could .

  • Helen
    2019-04-19 15:29

    I had high hopes for The Sandalwood Tree as I love historical fiction set in India - and I'm pleased to say that it didn't disappoint me at all.This novel consists of two storylines, both of which take place during an important period of India's history. In 1947 we meet an American woman, Evie Mitchell, who has moved to India with her husband, Martin, and five-year-old son Billy. Martin, a historian, is planning to study the end of British rule and the process of Partition (the separation of Hindus and Muslims which led to the creation of Pakistan). As the Mitchells try to settle into their new life it becomes obvious that there are big problems in their marriage. Martin, who served in the US army during World War II, is still haunted by some of the things he experienced in Germany and is suffering from what we might now call post-traumatic stress disorder.Soon after moving into their new house in the village of Masoorla, Evie discovers some old letters hidden behind a loose brick in the wall. The letters were written by two British women, Felicity Chadwick and Adela Winfield, who lived in the same house during the 1850s - a time of rising tension between the British and Indian people, leading to the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857. Evie is intrigued and begins to search for more information about the two Victorian women. As she slowly uncovers Felicity and Adela's story through a series of letters, diaries and historical documents, she starts to see some similarities between her own life and theirs.Elle Newmark's descriptions of India are filled with colour and detail. Whether she's writing about the food prepared by Habib, the Mitchells' cook, a monkey swinging from the branches of a tree, or a perfume stall at the bazaar, her images really help to bring the book's setting to life. Because most of the story is told from Evie's perspective and she is new to India, seeing everything for the first time, we can experience all the sights, sounds and smells along with her. We also share Evie's fascination with Adela and Felicity and we feel her frustration every time she attempts to address the problems with her marriage.Reading The Sandalwood Tree is an excellent way to learn about India's history and culture and Elle Newmark makes everything easy to understand. But it's also a great story with a beautiful setting, fascinating plot and complex characters who grow and change over the course of the novel. The transitions between the two periods are handled perfectly, moving smoothly from Evie's story to Felicity and Adela's, and it was interesting to see the parallels and connections between them. I found I enjoyed both storylines equally - each one would have been strong enough to form a complete novel on its own, but it's the way the two are interwoven that makes this book special.

  • Kim
    2019-04-10 16:09

    Historical fiction is my favorite genre; that being said, this was a good story.

  • Sandra Bašić
    2019-04-17 17:07

    Ova nam knjiga donosi dvije priče, s razmakom od 90 godina. Naime, sada je 1947., godina u kojoj polako prestaje prevlast Britanaca u Indiji. Kako bi upravo tu temu dokumentirao, Martin Mitchell (američki povjesničar i veteran 2. svjetskog rata) otputovat će u Indiju, sa suprugom i petogodišnjim sinom. Njegova supruga Evie pokušava održati brak živim i vratiti onog Martina, kakav je bio prije rata. U obavljanju tog ponekad vrlo teškog zadatka, naletjet će na pisma iz 1857. g. i jednu snažnu priču o Felicity i Adeli, njihovom prijateljstvu i životu tadašnjeg doba, u toj istoj kući. Autorica vrlo vješto isprepliće ove dvije radnje, pomalo nam otkrivajući sve brižno zakopane tajne, koje će na kraju biti zaokružene u jednoj lijepoj i toploj harmoniji.Obožavam ovaj stil pisanja, priču u priči, a još k tome i Indiju. Neki će odmah pomisliti isključivo na siromaštvo, prljavštinu i krave na cesti, ali osim toga Indija ima jednu čudesnu i zadivljujuću kulturu, tu vjersku i životnu raznolikost i filozofiju. Fascinira me taj britanski svijet 19. stoljeća, u kojem djevojke koje se nisu udale u razdoblju godine dana od predstavljanja u društvu, odlaze brodom na drugi kraj svijeta, kako bi doslovno „upecale“ supruga i pridružile se tzv. Ribarskoj floti. A Indija 20. stoljeća pokušava ostvariti svoju nezavisnost, pod vodstvom mladog Ghandija, u svakodnevnim razmiricama između Hindusa i Muslimana, koje nerijetko prerastaju u nešto opasnije.Preporuka za čitanje onima koji vole bilo koji dio ovoga što sam navela, a imaju hrabrosti zakoračiti u dva različita svijeta i otkriti odgovore koje nude duhovi prošlosti.

  • Ally
    2019-04-07 15:23

    Overall I was disappointed in this novel. The characters and the idea of the story were brilliant but the execution was poor. In a novel structured in this way it’s important (in my opinion) that the reader ‘discovers’ the history of the house’s former inhabitants at the same pace as the protagonist. Unfortunately, as a reader, I got to know more about Felicity & Adela than she did and therefore kept forgetting what Evie knew. I wish the author had stuck to the idea of telling the 1858 story though diaries, photos, Empire records and letters rather than throwing in a few ‘real life’ chapters from that time. I also got very frustrated because my advance knowledge helped me ‘get’ the connections before Evie did so although the author perhaps felt she was building up tension all I felt was an intense frustration. The history the author gives is fantastic and the sense of time and place feels authentic. I wish the author could have balanced the story with some native characters that had a real voice and also given Mr Singh more of a prominent role, by the time he entered the story in any real way you were speeding through to a very neat and contrived conclusion. Another frustration was in the diaries of Adela, which didn’t have a convincing ‘voice’ and were written in much the same way as the main story, with a descriptive storytelling narrative rather than an inner monologue. As a light read it serves its purpose but it could have been a real triumph and I would have liked to read the novel it could very easily have been.

  • Joan
    2019-04-04 15:34

    This was an annoying book. Right from page 2 when Evie Mitchell refers to Gandhi as "a skinny little man in a loincloth". I wondered how Indian readers would regard this. One narrative is set mid-20th C with Evie and her husband and son travelling to India on a Fulbright Scholarship. She appreciates the purpose behind the scholarship "to foster a global community" little in the rest of the book indicates she the scholarship is doing that for her. And little time is devoted to her husband, Martin, to indicate he is experiencing this either.And then there is the other narrative of two women in the mid-19th C. much of their story is told through letters and a diary. All of this appears in the edition I read in italics. Italics is very annoying font to read. And either the author or the publisher should give the reader a little credit. We learn very quickly that Evie is in the 20 century and Adela and Felicity are in the 19th. We do not need italics to help us make that discrimination. I kept putting off reading this book. A very bad sign. Then I just picked it up and flipped through to the end. And what a tidy ending it was.

  • Genia Lukin
    2019-03-28 18:16

    It's fluffy, it's cutesy, it takes about a day to read.It's horribly cliche in the most banal ways. Post-traumatic stress is resolved by an epiphany and a resolution. A wife with a promising career in science is happy raising her adorable, blond, beautiful child, and saves her husband through her womanly virtues. India is a place of acceptance and spirituality, flavours and smells, compared to the bland, arrogant West...Et cetera, et cetera. It's not a very god book. The only thing that saves it from being a really bad book is its utter pretentiousness. It doesn't aspire to be a profound examination of conditions in India. It just wants to be a feel-good historical fiction story that can be consumed and then immediately forgotten. It's easy to read in all ways, including a large print and colourful pretty cover.Recommended fro: doctors' offices, trains, and sickdays.Not recommended for: anyone who wants to read about PTSD, India, or family relationships.

  • Tara Chevrestt
    2019-03-31 22:29

    This is a lovely and informative novel. The setting is India, both 1947 and 1858. There are five love stories in a way.. There's the heroine, Evie and Martin. They are married with a five year old boy. Their marriage was wonderful until Martin went to serve in WW2... now things are falling apart. Evie thought that coming to India would bring them closer together, but they have simply "exported" their unhappiness... In order to save their marriage, Martin must get rid of his inner demons and both of them must learn to live for joy..To read full review, please click on the link:

  • Christine
    2019-03-27 19:24

    I received this book as part of the First Read giveaway program here at Goodreads. First the GoodI loved the characters, relationships, and themes. I am interested in historical novels that take place in India, and those with a World War II theme. I liked that we got a mix of India during the Raj era, and post WWII. That was an unusual mix. I often felt very touched by this story, and really loved the ending. The characters frequently surprised me, and in the end I was left with a good warm feeling from the book. The Not So GoodThe lesbianism in the book seemed... I don't know exactly but perhaps awkward is the word I'm looking for. I can't know if this is true, but it seemed to me as though the author simply plugged in a lesbian character for effect, or as a gimmick. It did not seem sincere, nor authentic to me. I think she may have been going for a Sarah Waters feel, but it just wasn't convincing. Worse, though, was the linking of the stories from the two eras. I was interested in both stories, but as the main post WWII character Evie makes discovery after discovery about the women from the past, I find it harder and harder to suspend my disbelief. The original discovery of the letters is fine, everything else feels really stretched and contrived. Final ThoughtsIn spite of the above complaints, I'm still really glad I read this book. There's a lot in here about forgiveness (of self and others), great relationships, and memorable characters. There are a lot of good hearts and minds from different walks of life in this book, plenty of surprises, and a fair amount of romance. A good historical adventure that I enjoyed.

  • Sharon
    2019-04-12 15:14

    Rich in details and history, The Sandalwood Tree will keep the reader turning pages. A book that teaches while telling a great story is worth reading, and this book meets that criteria. Martin, Evie, and Billy leave Chicago to live in India while Martin, a historian, documents the end of the British Raj. As they settle into a small town amid brilliant color, strange customs, and agonizing poverty, the tapestry of the story begins. Against the wallpaper of a solid but troubled marriage and religious and political turmoil, Evie discovers a few letters secreted away in their rented bungalow. She seeks more information about the people in the letters from a local church. One scrap of information leads to another, along with some accidental, fortuitous finds, and the story of Adele and Felicity emerge. The year is 1947; the letters were written 90 years ago in the Victorian era. The dual stories of Evie's family in an increasingly war-ravaged, unstable land and young Adele and Felicity's growing up across continents alternate in the book. The characters are finely crafted by the author. The book engages the senses and emotions leaving the reader with drifts of the story long after it is read. I loved the book. It would make a good movie, if it's possible to fit so much into a movie.

  • Natalie
    2019-03-28 21:24

    Uživala sam u svakom elementu ove knjige: bogata postavka i kultura Indije tijekom dva važna razdoblja u svojoj povijesti, složen lik razvoja i odnosa, bezvremenski kvalitetnih temeljnih tema, zrak - misterija u cijeloj knjizi i uporaba pisama i dnevnika koji se koriste za ispričati priču o prošlosti. Nekoliko puta me nasmijala oko samih likova, često me držala znatiželjnom što se dogodilo dalje; bilo sa likovima u prošlosti, bilo sa likovima u sadašnjosti. Jako lijepi opisi same Indije i života, ali i zadnji otkucaji Britanske vladavine u Indiji i početak kaosa između vjerskih razlika, stvaranje muslimanskog dijela nazvanog Pakistan i Indijskog dijela koji drži mladi Gandhi.

  • MishaMathew
    2019-04-18 17:12

    I really enjoyed Elle Newmark's previous novel, The Book of Unholy Mischief. The Sandalwood Tree was my most awaited book this year. I am glad to say that it more than lived up to my expectations. The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark is an excellent read, the best book I've read this year, till now. I adore books involving long-ago secrets, mysterious letters, strong female protagonists and tragic love stories; this book offered me all of these and more. Needless to say, I LOVED this book! Yes, LOVED!In 1947, Americans Evie and Martin Mitchell, along with their young son, move to Simla, a hill station in India. Martin, a historian, wants to document the events surrounding the end of British rule in India after a period of more than two hundred years. For Evie, following her husband to India is a last resort to save her marriage. However, Martin is still battling his horrific memories and dreams of the World War II. The Mitchells are mesmerized and quite taken with India. But 1947 is a turbulent time. The date of partition is approaching. The future appears dangerous as India is to be divided into two - a separate country called "Pakistan" is about to be created. Chaos and violence ensues due to the inevitable clash between Hindus and Muslims. Evie doesn't believe that the violence can touch the peaceful Simla and doesn't want to leave the country.Martin and Evie, once so much in love, are now falling apart. All of Evie's attempts to restore her marriage fail. Her life looks bleak and lonely. Things change, as Evie comes across some hidden letters, written almost hundred years ago. She's drawn towards these letters, written by two Englishwomen, Adela and Felicity. As her marriage falls apart further and violence reigns over India, she becomes more and more obsessed with the mystery. The letters become her own little secret, her solace.There are two story-lines running simultaneously - Evie's journey towards uncovering the secrets of the letters as well as Adela and Felicity's story. Entwined in all of this are two love stories that will stir you deeply. While Adela and Felicity's story is beautiful and heartbreaking, it's Evie's voice that I was drawn to the most. She's dissatisfied and desperate, lonely and unhappy. My heart went out to her.The most captivating thing about The Sandalwood Tree is the author's enchanting, stunning portrayal of India, especially Simla. At first, I was quite doubtful about how the author would depict the most important year in Indian history. But Elle Newmark seems to have done so much of research. I learned things that I didn't know despite having studied History for four years in school (the major part of which encompassed the freedom struggle). I was transported to 1947 India and I could see everything through Evie's eyes. It's always interesting to read another perspective on the Partition and the freedom movement. I loved how objective the author was. Through Evie's voice, she has presented both sides of the argument- both the British and the Indian perspective. The description of Simla is especially enthralling - the way the author has described the Himalayas, the people, the bazaars and so on. I've been to Simla twice; somehow my interest in the place is rekindled and I can't wait to visit again. Of course, much has changed since 1947.I've heard some horror stories of the Partition from my grandfather, as well as read about it; so I could relate to the events described in the book. We all know about the tensions between India and Pakistan, all going back to the Partition. I wonder - what if the division had not happened? I feel we gained as well as lost something in 1947. I'd prefer to have peace and friendship rather than the bitterness and prejudices that still prevail. Evie, Felicity and Adela are such fascinating women, each different and yet connected. Their stories will mesmerize you and even make you teary-eyed. One of the most powerful aspects of the book, for me, is Evie's relationship with her son, Billy. Some of their scenes together really tugged at my heartstrings.There were some minor problems I had with the book. There's a storyline that stops midway, which I wished the author had pursued further. Moreover, though I love Evie, some things she did really bothered me. Despite these, the good points outdo the few bad ones.The Sandalwood Tree gives out some relevant messages about forgiveness, acceptance, love and happiness. Lush Imagery combined with characters that remain with you, make The Sandalwood Tree a memorable read. Beautiful and evocative writing brought to life the characters and the setting, creating a lingering effect in my mind.Overall:Beautiful, compelling and heartrending story of three women during British India.Recommended?Highly recommended! If you love vivid imagery and "exotic" settings, this one's for you.

  • JudithAnn
    2019-04-15 17:13

    About the book: There are two storylines in this book. The first is the story of American Evie Mitchell, who has recently moved to India with her husband Martin and their five-year old son Billy. It’s 1947 and there are troubles ahead for India. Martin is researching the process of India becoming independent from England and especially the Partition (in which Pakistan and Bangladesh were formed).Evie isn’t interested in joining the other ex-pats and wants to experience India first-hand. Her husband was part of unmentionable events as an american soldier in Germany in the second world war, and their relationship isn’t going very well. When she finds some letters hidden in her house, she is intrigued, as the letters are 100 years old.The second storyline is about the writers of the letters, Felicity and Adela, two English young women in the 1850s. Felicity was born in India but sent to England to live with Adela and her parents when she was eight years old. Later she moves back to India and an interesting story follows, complete with scandals.What I thought: This book drew me in from the first few pages. The atmosphere in India, the smells, colors, people and everything else is described so beautifully.The story itself is very interesting, with both Evie and Felicity going against the grain and not fitting in with the people around them. That was also a weak point of the book, because some of the stories of Evie and Felicity were too similar, and sometimes I wasn’t sure whose story I was reading.Finding old letters and discovering a story from them has been done so often, but in this book it really worked. It was fun that sometimes the reader knew things that Evie hadn’t discovered yet. At first, it seemed that Evie wouldn’t find out more than what she’d read in a few letters, but eventually, and with some help of others, she found out the whole story of Felicity and Adela.What I liked about this book, too, is that the (re)search into Felicity’s story doesn’t overtake Evie’s life completely. When she has husband troubles and when there is a scare involving her son, she puts everything aside and it becomes totally unimportant to her. I liked that a lot, as in some books, the search into the past seems to become the main issue of the book, while what happens in the present, should always be most important.Absolutely wonderful read!

  • Teresa
    2019-03-31 16:21

    I read and reviewed this book as part of the Transworld Reading Group Challenge.I am very partial to well told dual time-frame stories although I usually find the contemporary narrative weaker so this is a rare gem indeed, a dual time frame narrative with both stories set in the past, both in India, one in 1947 and the other in the mid 19th century. I’m delighted to report that both stories drew me in from the opening pages and I was sad to finish this very engaging novel.In the 1947 setting, Evie and Martin Mitchell, and their little boy, Billy, have moved to India in a bid to embark on a new life, far away from the nightmare memories of WWII which continue to haunt Martin, a former soldier. Unfortunately, the turmoil of war torn India with all its religious divisions mirrors the turbulent nature of the Mitchells’ relationship. Evie feels isolated but a diversion arrives when she discovers some old letters hidden within the walls of their bungalow – she is enthralled by the story which emerges of two Victorian women who once occupied their home during the 1840s.There’s a lot to satisfy the reader in this carefully woven tale – history, romance, eccentricity, various thrills and spills. Elle Newmark has an almost painterly approach to her descriptions and you feel plunged into this dusty landscape – it is very easy to visualise the eponymous sandalwood tree in front of the bungalow which has witnessed so much change as India gradually edges its way towards partition. We also witness first-hand the sights, smells and sounds of an India which has learned to “bend” rather than be “broken” by the streams of invaders and conquerers over the centuries.I was very saddened to learn of the recent death of Elle who was still working on the final draft of this captivating novel during a long illness. However she has left a wonderful legacy in both this and her previous novel The Book of Unholy Mischief.

  • Althea Ann
    2019-04-03 21:18

    I couldn't help kinda sorta feeling that this book was intentionally crafted to appeal to Sarah Waters fans. But my feeling could be attributed to the fact that I had Waters' 'The Little Stranger next on my queue, and was impatient to start it. The Sandalwood Tree isn't as good as Waters - but it's still an enjoyable book.; I very much enjoyed the vivid depictions of rural India. However, I felt that the connection between the American woman in India in 1947 and the Victorian lady in the same location in the mid-1800's was a bit forced (the various discoveries of the earlier woman's letters &c became progressively less believable), I also personally would have preferred more glimpses of events from a local's perspective, rather than only from the foreigners' - it would have made a nice contrast. And the focus on the Americans' marital troubles got a bit Lifetime-y at times, and detracted from the more interesting (to me) social issues that were also brought up by the story.(Oh, just a note - I love the cover. It looks like an ad for a Merchant Ivory movie... it's why I picked it up.)

  • Darlene
    2019-04-13 15:23

    This book is a very easy read, however it did not keep my attention at all. It was to tell two love stories, one from the past(late 1850's) and one in the present(1940's). The past love story involves a young girl who is a lesbian(not really my type of read), however after only one or two chapters(which I am glad about) nothing more happens. She is caught with her "lover" and then ships off to India. A second "love" story from the past involves a English women and an Indian man which of course is taboo, but the author never really portrays their love story. The two characters start meeting for tea then secretly meet at a "hotel" and that was it. The present day love story was worse. It was the typical they meet, marry, then he goes off to war, comes back tramuatized, becomes distant then one day he tells her why, and they live happily ever after. I also felt the author spent too much time on the couples little boy and his stuffed toy then the love stories. I love historical fiction, but this unfortunatly is not one I would recommend.

  • Heidi Burkhart
    2019-04-08 18:28

    I wanted to like this book, but as I continued to read I felt like I just wanted it to be over. In all fairness I do think that Newmark is a good crafter of words. The story felt contrived, as there were too many neat and tidy coincidences. I also wondered if Newmark had done her research in India or in books. The story within the story was better, but neither story rang true for me.I especially felt that Evie, the main character was a woman from the 21st century that had been inserted to a story which took place in 1947. For some reason I could not like her, and that aside, simply lost interest in her world.I love India, and books about India by their authors. One must tread carefully when reading a book about another country. Who wrote it, what where did the author obtain their information?I will leave it at that.

  • Gabi Coatsworth
    2019-04-15 16:34

    A terrific read. Elle Newmark did a wonderful job with her evocation of India in the 1850's and in 1947, when racial and religious tensions were high - largely as a result of the British Raj. I never felt she was shoving research down my throat, and yet she must have done a lot of it, because the story includes not only historical background but the sights and smells of India. Even more interesting is her consideration of what it means to come to terms with one's life, how fragile that life can be, and how our stories are what remain of our lives long after we are gone. Since she died very shortly after this was published, I'm sure her awareness of what it means to be mortal was crucially important at that time. Plenty to discuss in a book club.Lovely.

  • Nicky
    2019-04-20 16:36

    I loved this story! Was a little slow and boring in the beginning but became a real page turner! Really enjoyed this read

  • Yvann S
    2019-04-22 18:11

    “Death steals everything but our stories.”It’s the story of Evie Mitchell, who is in India with her husband in 1947. Martin is documenting history in action during the Partition on a Fulbright scholarship; Evie keeps herself making their little bungalow spotless and teaching English to a few local children. One day, she finds a concealed bundle of letters hidden away in the wall of the bungalow. While she can’t interpret very much of them, the reader is given access to a second storyline – the tale of two girls raised as sisters. Felicity leaves Adela in England and makes her way back to India where she was born (and where we know she will leave the letters).I adored this. It seemed to be just the right mix of exotic lands, adventure, mystery and family life/romance/interpersonal conflict to tick all my boxes. (Other recent successes in this vein – The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Bel Canto) And the language! A brief selection of quotes for you:On the discovery and investigation of some ancient letters: “The letters were personal, and trying to fill in the blanks felt like peering into these people’s lives uninvited. I struggled with a brief pang of guilt before reminding myself that the letters were dated 1854 and the people concerned were long past caring.”On marriage: “I remembered when we had shared joy as easily as breathing” “That was the beginning of us being smashed and remade with something of the other in each of us” “I’d lost my best friend and I missed him like fire.”On Catholicism: “It occurred to them that my Catholicism might seem as arcane to them as their Judaism did to me. For me, the pageant of Byzantine robes and chanting in a dead language, the drama of tortured martyrs, virgin birth and crucifixion had been worn thin and made bland by repetition.”And one of my favourite little comic moments (for reference – Evie has only just discovered that Habib speaks English):“‘Oh, Mr Mitchell doesn’t care for eggplant.’‘Of course not, Madam. Eggplant is a useless vegetable. A mistake I am making with this vegetable. I will take back. The merchant should not even be selling such useless vegetables, isn’t it?’‘But last night you said eggplant was the king of vegetables.’Habib regarded me with pity for not understanding something so simple. ‘Madam,’ he said, ‘for you I am working, not for the eggplant. What good would it be doing me to be disagreeing with you and agreeing with the eggplant?’”The dual storyline worked very well here (of course the strands are united at the end, but not as I thought they would be), much as in Maggie O’Farrell’s The Hand That First Held Mine. I loved the Victorian characters, although my loyalties flickered back and forth between the two Victorian girls. Newmark has clearly done her research carefully and it shows. In the 1947 thread, I wasn’t much of a fan of the husband, but Evie was wonderful – impulsively adventurous, a sweet and loving mother, a young wife struggling in a marriage that is no longer the one she entered, determined to see India and experience it properly, unlike the colonial wives at the Club, with their trifle and cricket matches and G&Ts.Evie could be slow sometimes too (annoying, in one who was supposed to be so smart). The conflict is well built and perpetrated, and the scenes with Evie and her son are sweet, but I was a bit disappointed in the resolution to the conflict – it seemed so flat suddenly.But occasional ditzy moments from Evie and Martin’s sullenness were the only things tempering my very positive feelings about this charming cross-temporal and continental adventure.

  • Lindsay
    2019-04-16 18:08

    I have read and reviewed this novel as part of the Transworld Book Group Reading Challenge.This is a beautifully written, enjoyable to read, dual timeframe novel. In 1947, Evie travelled from Chicago to India with her historian husband Martin and young five year old son Billy. Martin is on a Fulbright scholarship to study the last days of the British rule in the region. Their marriage is on rocky ground since Martin returned from serving in WWII a changed, quieter man, and Evie hopes things may improve for them once they are in India, and that he may open up and share the dreadful wartime experiences that he evidently keeps locked within. Hidden in their cottage, Evie discovers the remains of some letters between two English women, dating from just under a hundred years previously, who themselves were occupants of this cottage in Masoorla. So begins the other half of the story, featuring Felicity Chadwick and Adela Winfield, set in the 1840s and 1850s. We learn, through remnants of letters, and journal entries made by Adela and found by Evie, what happened when these two Victorian women met as young girls in England, formed an incredibly close bond, and found themselves both together again in India, looking to live their lives unconventionally, with joy and adventure. Evie becomes entranced by the mystery of these two women from the past, who, like her, traveled to India and experienced the unfamiliar culture. She looks into their story, as she finds further clues and the tale unfolds, as a distraction from her troubled relationship with her husband. The stories that Evie uncovers from the past enlighten her as to what really counts in the present. I really enjoyed this lovely read, with a well-developed and cleverly intertwined storyline. It has such a strong sense of place and is rich with period detail evoking the vibrant, varied colours, spicy foods, diverse smells, intense heat, terrible poverty and suffering, inequality, and the many ways of life in India as these incomers experienced it then. Whilst reading I myself felt as if I was immersed in the place and I was engrossed in the tale throughout. I was very interested to learn aspects of India’s, and the regions’ past through the eyes of these characters, in particular Evie, whose first-person accounts bring us close to her everyday experiences. The author captures the country at a time of unrest and change, with Partition on the horizon, and many millions of people with an unsettled, uncertain future. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next in both parts of the story. It is a vibrant novel, which contains mystery, tells of love and passion that is against the accepted norm of the times, of despair and hope in a relationship that has faltered and needs repair, and introduces the reader to a wonderful and vivid landscape. I could imagine fans of Kate Morton’s novels, amongst many other readers, very much enjoying this book.At the end of the novel, there is an insightful interview with the author, who details her research and trips to India, and it is evident that she put a lot of effort into authenticating her story. I was sad to learn that the author has recently passed away, a talent lost, but this marvelous novel will endure. The words she wrote and attributed to Adela in the novel are so true for her too, that ‘death steals everything but our stories.’

  • LindyLouMac
    2019-04-04 21:12

    I am delighted to say that it is thanks to the Transworld Book Challenge that I got to read this engaging and evocative novel. It was my first choice of four titles for this excellent scheme, whereby they send me a book to read and review, once my review is posted they will send me my next choice. This is a great idea that works for authors, publishers, readers and reviewers. I do hope they will do this again as this is a title I may well have missed out on had I not signed up for the challenge.It is thought that ‘Partition’ may well be the worst thing that ever happened to India. This statement was backed up for me when I read the author’s notes at the end of this book, where she tells of a man talking to her about ‘ Partition’ I quote “When you create a border based on ideology, you create something to fight over. When you live side by side, you create a reason to get along”The story unfolds slowly but it needs to as you are reading the stories of two different sets of characters in different times as the novel alternates between the India of 1947 and that of 1857. Two love stories ninety years apart but linked by the main protagonist of the story Evie.Evie, her husband Martin and their young son have travelled to India as Martin has been awarded a Fellowship to study the end of British rule in India. The marriage is under strain due to Martin’s war time experiences and finding herself stranded in a colonial bungalow in the Himalaya’s Evie struggles to heal the rift between her and her husband. It is in this bungalow that Evie finds a hidden cache of letters which relate a compelling story of two Victorian women. Felicity and Adela, were unconventional young ladies that had lived in the same bungalow, hiding their story for others, they hoped to find one day. Evie becomes drawn to their story and embarks on piecing this mysterious love story together. The detail of the sights, sounds and smells of India are portrayed so well by the author that I felt transported there. I recommend the book highly, however there is one small thing that I noticed that I have not been able to answer from the text. In the 1940’s section of the novel Evie is relating the story to us in the first person, but somehow the date does not seem right, was she relating this years later? Why do I query this, let me quote from page 64, second paragraph.‘In 1945 they called it combat fatigue, but in the First World war they had called it shell shock, which is more accurate. Martin wasn’t simply tired of combat, he was shocked by the barbarism skulking in men’s souls. After Vietnam, they started calling it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Stress? Please. The names for this mental illness become more sanitized with every war.’Did any one else who has already read this notice this, if so what did you make of it? Did you find any reference in the novel as to when Evie was telling us this story, that it was maybe not in the 1940’s, apart from this paragraph? I would love to know.To conclude, I thoroughly enjoyed this perfectly entwined novel that manages to swap easily from one time frame to the other, without confusing the reader.For biographical information and a video please visit LindyLouMac's Book Reviewshttp://lindyloumacbookreviews.blogspo...

  • Joanne D'Arcy
    2019-04-12 22:29

    Evie and Martin through Martins job recording the experiences of Partition move to India from Chicago, America. A cultural move and in some ways shock for all concerned as they both seem to be trying to move from on the past. They are in the centre of where the future is happening in India, as Partition is brought forward Martin recovering from the Second World War and the atrocities he saw, haunts both him and Evie for most of the book until Evie finally finds out what happened and they slowly start to build their lives again but not without own potential personal tragedy first. Martin does not want Evie and their son, Billy to experience life in India too much; he wants to cocoon them from everything. Evie has other ideas. When cleaning in their little bungalow provided for them, Evie stumbles across some letters, some are unreadable but there are enough words on one to piece together a story of something similar to what Evie is feeling at the moment. At this point the book reverts back 100 years or so to the time around of the Indian Munity of 1857. Felicity was born in India and although educated for a greater part in England has returned to find herself a life, but not one expected of her by her contemporaries of the Victorian Period. Felicity wants to be herself, and causes scandal along the way. Her childhood friend who she grew up with Adela left behind in England wants the same, but she has differing feelings to those expected of a woman of her time and when a potential scandal at home needs to be hushed up, Adela finds herself joining Felicity as a member of the ‘fishing fleet’ – women sent to India to find a husband where men outnumbered women 5 to 1. Evie is drawn to these two lives from the past, as she discovers that they are in their own way trying to fight a partition of love and land when tensions in India grew. These ghosts of the past fulfil Evie and she starts to piece together the past and when it starts to infiltrate the present the two stories are finally combined. This is an excellent book and if you love the combination of history, and two stories running concurrently but inextricably linked then this is certainly the book for you. The history of India is explained and Elle Newmark really gives a sense of the time and place both in the mid 19th and 20th Century. Whilst being a historical novel, it is essentially a love story for all the characters as well as the love of the country which is being torn apart with people being misplaced. It has an echo of the troubles that still affect this country some years later and is as relevant today as then. Newmark has certainly researched her subject well, including in her notes at the back of the book regarding visiting India. From this firsthand knowledge she brings to each page, the colour and vibrancy of the place despite conflict. The tastes and the smells of the land, the seasons and the weather and the relief felt when the rains started and I was the locals who worshipped the ground when the rain fell. I could feel how uncomfortable the humidity and heat which essentially held the humidity and heat of the storyline throughout the book. There is so much more that this book says and covers, the only way you can find out more is to actually go and read the book.

  • Julie Smith (Knitting and Sundries)
    2019-04-23 16:07

    This review first appeared on my blog: is 1947 and Evaleen's husband Martin has received a Fulbright scholarship to document the end of the British Raj in India. Martin fought in the war in Germany, and came back a changed man. Their marriage has suffered because of it, and Evaleen hopes that this stay will help bring them back together. They and their five-year-old son Billy find themselves staying in Masoorla, renting a house. While Martin goes off to research and work during the day, Evaleen quite often finds herself at loose ends, as she really doesn't fit with the colonial crowd. One day she finds a packet of letters, waterstained and missing words, between a Felicity and Adela dated 1855. Evaleen sets up an informal school for the local children as she attempts to find out the story behind the letters. As Partition closes in sooner than expected, there is a new urgency, as Martin wants to send Billy and Evaleen away from what he feels will be a dangerous situation.There is also a second story - the one of Adela and Felicity. For some reason, when there are two storylines, I somehow usually enjoy the past story more than the present story, and that is the case here as well. In colonial India, English children were usually sent back to England at 7 or 8 to continue their schooling. In Felicity's case, she is sent to live with Dr. and Mrs. Winfield as guardians. She and their daughter Adela become fast friends as they are sent to an elite boarding school. Both of them grow up to be rather unconventional, and after one season during which Felicity rebuffs all possible suitors, she determines to go back to India. A year later, Adela joins her, having been sent away by her parents to avoid scandal. Their story is poignant and rather heartbreaking in many ways.The twining together of these two stories is impeccably done. I really enjoyed reading how the past story actually played out it's ending in the present. With it's high level of detail and historical accuracy, I could feel India come alive as I read. Very enjoyable read.QUOTES (from an ARC; may be different in final copy):I remembered when we had shared joy as easily as breathing, and that is what I thought our marriage would always be. But since the war he'd become so intractably sullen that my first thought was to hide the letters from him. I didn't want him to cast a pall on my excitement."Imagine the British, or anyone, telling Americans that since we have problems with race relations, the east and west coasts of America must be black and the middle of the country must be white, and that we have to get it done in two months."Sepoys have been made to lick clean the floor of the massacre site at Kanpur, after which they are ritually outcaste by having pork, beef & everything that could possibly break caste stuffed down their throats. Then they are sewn into pigskins and hanged.Writing: 4.5 out of 5 starsPlot: 4 out of 5 starsCharacters: 3.5 out of 5 starsReading Immersion: 4 out 5 starsBOOK RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

  • Judy & Marianne from Long and Short Reviews
    2019-04-05 22:31

    It is the mid-twentieth century and (importantly) the aftermath of WWII. Evie Mitchell, husband and young son travel to India. It is the end of British rule, and the very start of enormous political strife within the country. However, political machinations are mostly a matter of backdrop. In all points, it is individuals who matter in this exquisitely written novel. Parallel love stories twine the lives of Evie and Martin (and a few friends) from the twentieth century, realistically with the lives or histories of people who lived in their same home nearly 100 years before. The incredibly rich and detailed backdrop is all the sights and sounds and smells of a foreign land, as it can only be experienced through the eyes of a person completely new to it. And Evie is somehow both open to the amazing world around her and the experiences of others, and simultaneously, purposefully, insulated. She lives there, but remains, in some sense, always a tourist. She adores Rashmi, her native housekeeper, but wants all her servants to learn English rather than she, in this foreign land, attempting to learn the language. She is intrigued by the histories of past lives and the impact and relationships of those lives of those of today, but not, it seems, in the case of the natives. This doesn't mean that a Hindu is left merely a shadow character - indeed, few could be more amusing than her cook, who will one day declare the imminense of an eggplant, and the next, disown it completely. Even so, the truly important people here are all of a western civilization or heritage. Through superb characterization, Newmark easily demonstrates how this was not an oversight on the part of the writer. This subtle failing is a purposeful part of Evie's, and somehow it makes her more human; exposes a fear or a failure any expatriot might identify with and it generates both impatience and sympathy in the reader. Her husband Martin's failure is more secret, more defined, and ultimately a catalyst for the future. Their relationship, doubtful at the start, does change throughout, though Evie's struggle to reach her husband is less important (to her) than her struggle to uncover and connect to the past. The dangers, possible loss, and emotion turmoil they will face is sometimes foreshadowed, but often not. There are physical dangers – possible loss – as well as the emotional strife. Newmark's contribution to serious literature must be acknowledged...yet the overall appeal of this specific storyline is limited. Literary fans will grumble at some points, while romance fans, at others. Still, I found this book utterly worth reading and I will be looking forward to her next, because her skill with the written word is most obvious. originally posted at http://longandshortreviews.blogspot.c...

  • Eve
    2019-04-22 17:06

    I devoured with great realish The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark and so very much looked forward to reading her newest book, The Sandalwood Tree. As she brought to life Venice in The Book of Unholy Mischief, Newmark gives us a colorful and dramatic India as the setting of The Sandalwood Tree. Setting again is key; India almost feels like a major character in The Sandalwood Tree. Here, two storylines almost one hundred years apart pivot around key events in Indian history. In 1947, Evie accompanies her husband, Martin, with her son, Billy, to Simla. Their enchantment with India is soon tested, however, when Partition, the official date of the creation of Pakistan and the uprooting and separation of Hindus and Muslims comes sooner than expected. While they wait out the instability and upheaval, Evie finds a packet of letters hidden behind a brick in their house. It is a tantalizing, but incomplete, record of correspondence from the mid-1800s between two Englishwomen, Adela Winfield and Felicity Chadwick. With the chaos of Partition swirling around her and her relationship with Martin disintegrating day by day, Evie becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Adela and Felicity. The Sandalwood Tree alternates between Evie’s time and the time of Adela and Felicity, the eve of the Sepoy Rebellion of the British Raj. Newmark plunges us deep in the heart of British-occupied India in both storylines with vivid descriptions and a glimpse into the political, religious, and cultural clashes between the British and the Indians. I was mesmerized by the setting and historical aspects of The Sandalwood Tree and fascinated by Adela and Felicity’s stories, but I had a hard time connecting with Evie’s character. She was so enamored with Adela and Felicity that she repeatedly made questionable choices. For example, in one scene she is walking around town when she witnesses a mob burning a car and beating a man. Does she go back to the safety of her house? No, she keeps going because she is in a quest for truth about something that happened almost a hundred years ago. Also, the various sources she gathers to piece together what happened to Adela and Felicity - letters in a wall in one house, in a ceiling in another house, journals secreted in unlikely places - seem unnecessarily complicated. I think the dual plots had enough tension and surprises that the book didn’t need Evie chasing all over town. It was almost silly, considering that her marriage was falling apart and that the chaos of Partition was at the door. However, The Sandalwood Tree has plenty of other elements to make an intriguing novel – the allure of India, forbidden loves, exciting historical events, and writing that stimulates the senses. I really wanted to go to India after reading this book; but I couldn’t so I just had some naan and spicy curry.

  • Rachel
    2019-03-28 21:24

    he book is like a story within a story. The book begins with the framing story of a woman, Evie, in 1947, who accompanies her husband and young son to India with the dual purpose of seeking adventure and hoping to mend her failing marriage with a man just returned from World War II, broken. When she discovers a bundle of 90-year-old letters hidden in the wall during a cleaning frenzy, the second story of the friendship between Felicity and Adela is revealed. From there, Evie's story diverges from that of Felicity and Adela's as Evie struggles to find more evidence of the two other women's existence and uses her fascination as a distraction from the political turmoil occurring around her.The British are pulling out of India and separating the religious factions of Muslims and Hindus into the two countries of India and Pakistan, causing chaos and mayhem all over the country of India. The imagery and descriptions that Newmark fills the pages with are mesmerizing in their intensity and splendor. The colors, smells, and sounds have me half-falling in love with India to the point that I search for images online to match what I am reading to get a clearer picture of what the characters experience. Even though I struggled to stay interested in the plot for the first third of the book, the descriptions kept me reading and reading.Felicity and Adela's story begins from childhood, describing how Felicity was born in India, but fostered with Adela's family. The infamous husband hunt brought them both back to India through different means, though neither had any interest in a husband, for different scandalous reasons. Residing in the same home that Evie now occupies, Felicity and Adela shun the conventional life of an Englishwoman in India, instead adopting an independent lifestyle and embracing India in all its diverse beauty.Evie herself also seeks to shun what is expected of her, desiring to fully experience the culture of India all around her and use it to heal the problems in her own life. Eventually, she reconnects with the story of the two other women, even as major obstacles present themselves in both her private life and in the immediate villages. Letters take over the narration of Felicity and Adela's tale as Evie finds more to continue the story, instead of the author simply narrating what Evie can't find.On the whole, the novel was beautifully written and contained a worthwhile plot, though I struggled to stay interested at the beginning. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a mystery and craves the beauty of India.

  • Anne(Booklady) Molinarolo
    2019-04-13 21:35

    3.5 StarsI finished this novel late last night and it is still on my mind. Elle Newmark has filled my mind and heart with beautiful images and sounds of India, circa 1947 and 1857. The Sandalwood Tree. is really two stories - one within a story. In 1947 Evie and Martin Mitchell arrive in India so Martin can document the end of the British Raj. Their marriage is crumbling because of Martin's War experiences - he is withdrawn and full of guilt and is suffering PTSD. Evie copes by cleaning and taking care of their five year old son. It is on a cleaning binge that she discovers hidden behind a loose brick in the kitchen letters between two very unconventional Victorian young ladies.One is and Indian born Englishwoman, the other is her "sister in joy." Felicity Chadwick was sent to England for her education and Adela Winfield's family fostered her years there. They both will never marry, but for very different reasons. Reasons in the Victorian Age that were so scandalous that it was best for the young women to flee to India. Evie becomes obsessed with Felicity and Adela's story and searches for more clues about them. All we have is our stories, writes Adela.While discovering the girls' stories, Evie discovers the joy of the moment in a land that is undergoing tumult - partitioning the Muslims and the Hindu and the Sihk. And in this troubled land the past will join the present and Evie will find answers she needs to heal her troubled marriage. It is there for the seeking.I really enjoyed this novel. I loved that Elle Newmark used letters, poems, and journals to tell Felicity and Adela's stories after the first 20% of the novel. I was as obsessed as Evie to find out what happened to the two fascinating women. I wasn't really enamored by Evie's character at first, but I loved her in the end. The writing is mostly magical - especially that is in the letters and journal. I came to know why the Sandalwood Tree is most auspicious to the native people. And it was my good fortune to have read this book.

  • Carole
    2019-04-22 20:25

    We first meet Evie and Martin as they are travelling to their new home in India where an old Sandalwood Tree with long oval leaves and pregnant red pods presided over the front of their new house.Martin had come back from the war with combat fatigue, he wanted everything neat and tidy - it was about control, Evie knew, but she didn't know how to deal with it. By coming to India she hoped that their cracked marriage would be mended with exotic glue, and they would rediscover the charmed world they had shared in the beginning of their marriage.When Evie discovers a loose brick behind the cooker which hides a packet of folded papers tied with a faded blue ribbon which `reeked of long-lost secrets' she becomes obsessed with the two English ladies who lived a hundred years ago and whose letters she is now engrossed in reading.We are then taken back to the mid 19th century as the young Felicity and Adela first meet and they become firm friends. We follow them as they grow up and, by a remarkable coincidence they both end up living in India.There are more coincidences when Evie unearths more of Adela's journals in various locations which I did find hard to believe.I loved how the two parallel stories also coincided with the Indian uprisings in each century, the author didn't take sides with either the British or the Indians, she just gave us the facts and left it to the reader to decide the morals.I enjoyed the overall story, it was slow at first but the pace quickened about halfway through, some of the characters I connected with more than others and the descriptions of India were vivid and real. From Carole's Book Corner