Elle Newmark

The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

The Sandalwood Tree: A Novel

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.
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.
The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark is the interweaving of two poignant stories set in two of India’s most turbulent periods – the Sepoy Rebellion in 1857 and Partition in 1947.
The novel alternates back and forth between the two stories flawlessly. Using rich, descriptive prose, the author truly recreates the resonances and aromas of daily Indian culture. There is a pervading exoticism throughout that touches the reader’s senses. I especially enjoyed the mystery surrounding the hidden letters and the path of discovery the heroine ventured upon to learn the full story of Adela and Felicity nearly one hundred years prior.
This novel had all the hallmarks of a great story – mystery, conflict, and a fascinating historical period. Add to that some heart-wrenching scenes and a nicely complex plot, and you’ll find yourself reading long into the night with this novel. For an easy to read, enjoyable novel about some basic facts in Indian history, this is definitely one to read!
This review was written by Mirella Patzer at the Historical Novel Review site and is reprinted here with her permission.