Friday, September 23, 2011

The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark



  • Paperback: 509 pages
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Publisher: Transworld Publishers 2011
  • Source: Transworld Book Challenge
  • First Sentences : ‘Our train hurtled past a gold-spangled woman in a mango sari, regal even as she sat in the dirt, patting cow dung into disks for cooking fuel.’
  • Favourite Quote: ‘Death steals everything but our stories’
  • Review Quote: A powerful tale of romance and mystery. News of the World.
  • My Opinion : Engaging and evocative.


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    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.

    Elle Newmark  Fan PageFacebook Fan Page Photo


    Elle Newmark lived in the hills north of San Diego, California. Her sensational debut was The Book of Unholy Mischief. This was her second novel, sadly there will be no more as she died recently after a long illness. If you would like to learn more about Elle, including read her last tear jerking blog post visit her Official Website or her Obituary

    She has left a wonderful legacy in both this and her previous novel The Book of Unholy Mischief. As she wrote herself in this novel ‘ Death steals everything but our stories.’

    Still not sure if this is for you, then watch this short video, no spoilers just a very evocative introduction to the novel. I will quote the YouTube introduction. ‘A sweeping tale of two love stories, ninety years apart, set against the rich backdrop of war-torn India. An American woman, Evie, discovers a hidden packet of old letters and becomes consumed by a need to piece together the story behind them. Evie chases her Victorian ghosts, leading us through bazaars and temples as well as the dying society of the British Raj.’

    Uploaded by cosproductions on Apr 5, 2011

    Information, photo and video used in this post is with thanks to the following websites.

    YouTube - The Sandalwood Tree

    Facebook Fan Page

    Author's Official Website.

    Elle Newmark - Obituary


    1. Hmmmm....that would bother me being unclear about the timeline of the story (forties, sixties....) I have never read The Book of Unholy Mischief, but I have heard so much about it. I think it is so sad that this is her last book. I am still not over Ariana Franklin's death because I was addicted to the Mistress of the Art of Death series.

      Nice post!

    2. Ricki Jill@ It does bother me, I would love to know. Having a conversation with another friend about this on Goodreads at the moment. It does not spoil the book though just leaves me unclear! It is indeed very sad when good authors are taken away from us too early.

    3. Thank you so much for linking up! This book really intrigues me. I'm putting it and "The Book of Unholy Mischief" on my to-read list. I'm glad you've got your power back!

    4. I love novels that capture me and take me away to another place, so I think I'd really enjoy this! I'm wishing I signed up to the Transworld challenge this year now.

    5. Thank you, Linda, for another very comprehensive book review. this book is in my public library and I have made a request for it. I am specially intrigued because the author was a fellow California and I found her obituary very touching. You continue to introduce me to new many books, so little time!

    6. Lovely Review and liked the first part of the review where you have mentioned about "first sentences" "favourite quote" etc.

      Enjoyed :)!

    7. Sounds like an awesome and very educational book! I'm so sorry to hear that the author died.

    8. Bonnie@ A pleasure I am delighted I have tempted you to add her novels to your TBR list.

      Talli@ A very different time and place. It is my first time joining this challenge, but I hope to do so again given another opportunity.

      Patricia@ We seem to have similar tastes, very interesting about the connections, I will reply to your email, still trying to catch up. As you say so little time. :)

      Diventia@ Thanks for letting me know that you like the way I start my reviews now. A taster maybe for those that do not have time to read the whole post.

      Susan@ I certainly learnt something and I was sorry as well, I had no idea of her death when I selected this title for the challenge.

    9. I'm just about to read this book which I picked up at random from the library this week not knowing anything about it apart from the cover notes and will post my thoughts in due course. Thank you for your review.

    10. LindaP@ What a coincidence, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, I shall look forward to your comments.


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