Thursday, 15 September 2011

Guest Review: The Sandalwood Tree

Today, I have my old friend Sarah popping by to review a book she recieved from Transworld's Book Group!

The Sandalwood Tree
- Elle Newmark

Publisher: Black Swan

It is 1947, and Evie and Martin Mitchell have just arrived in the Indian village of Masoorla with their five-year-old son. But cracks soon appear in their marriage as Evie struggles to adapt to her new life, and Martin fails to bury unbearable wartime memories.

When Evie finds a collection of letters, concealed deep in the brickwork of their rented bungalow, so begins an investigation that consumes her, allowing her to escape to another world, a hundred years earlier, and to the extraordinary friendship of two very different young women.

And as Evie’s fascination with her Victorian discoveries deepens, she unearths powerful secrets. But at what cost to her present, already fragile existence?

Hello all Mel-followers, I'm back again!  Like Mel, I'm taking part in the Transworld challenge (what's not to love about free books??!!), and my first book to review is The Sandalwood Tree.  It would seem a very different type of novel to those I have always reviewed here, but as well as the Sci-Fi/Fantasy stuff I love World War, and Middle East-based books - and, how lucky am I, The Sandalwood Tree encompasses both!

This book is beautifully written by someone who has obviously spent plenty of time in India, and you get a real flavour of what life was like there in the late 1940s when religion was a dividing factor.  The experience is almost visceral at times - not just the sights, but the smells, the sounds, the textures.  It is a fabulous book for a dull or wet day - transporting you to another place entirely.

It also explores the after-effects of war, not just on the man involved (in this case the shell-shocked and guilt-ridden Martin), but on his family too.  The latter especially are so engaging - the mother, Evie, is a woman desperate to hold her family together, but at the same time unwilling to believe she cannot have happiness in her life, even if this means a life without her husband.  And then there's little Billy, a child so well-formed I cannot imagine he was not modelled on someone the author knew.

The story itself keeps your interest without a problem, but is in essence a 'nice' story - no major about-turns or surprises.  This is not a major criticism - who doesn't like an easy-to-read novel occasionally? - but means for me it doesn't reach the heights of A Thousand Splendid Suns, 8 out of 10.

Sarah is a member of Transworld Book Group!


  1. I remember hearing about this book a while back and I've been curious about it ever since. It sounds very illustrative and poignant.

    Thanks for the guest review.

  2. Oh this sounds wonderful! I love reading a book that transports you to a place I haven't visited. I think I will check this one out!

    ~A Mel-follower!

  3. I actually almost bout this book on Tuesday...but I wasn't sure about it. Thanks for the review. I am a new follower!

    BTW- All three commenters here are also melissa's!! lol

    ♥ Melissa @ Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf

  4. I read this for Transworld and I absolutely loved it. I though Newmark wrote emotions very well and although it was a nice book, there was some serious emotion in there!

  5. Hi Sarah :)
    If the only negative thing is that it is too nice then yes I'd read it, lol