Quickie Review of The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

Posted November 4, 2011 by Kara in Uncategorized / 0 Comments

Publisher: Atria
Release Date: April 5th, 2011
Pages: 368
Genre: Historical/Cultural, Adult Fiction
Cover: A- I love it. It captures the essence of the story well.
*I purchased a copy of this book.

The Sandalwood Tree: A NovelThe Sandalwood Tree: A Novel by Elle Newmark
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Blurb:

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.

Review:

I’m just going to be blunt on this one. It’s been that kind of day anyway. This book just didn’t work for me. It’s hard to explain, but all the perfect story elements were there, and still I felt extremely disconnected to the story and its characters.

The prose was gorgeous, and I loved the descriptions of India. There was some great imagery here, but I just couldn’t find myself getting into the story. I need an emotional connection of some kind to the books that I read and I just couldn’t find one. I could blame it on myself, but I don’t think it was me. And the thing is,  it’s really a shame because I had been looking forward to reading this book for ages. So much that I looked for it on every shelf everywhere I went until I ended up buying it on Amazon. I know, but it was on sale.

It took me ages to read. Like a week. It may not seem like a long time for you, but if a book is good I can usually get through it in two days. I have read some 900 page novels in two days. So obviously I had issues with this one. I did like parts of the story, like the fact that the two stories were intertwined, but I found almost all of the characters strangely unlikable. They were all selfish and snobby in one way or another. Even the little kid. He was kind of a brat.

The reason why I gave it three stars is because I did appreciate the lovely writing. I loved the setting and the fact that the book was well-researched. I guess some authors are not for everyone. I’m also going through a bit of a reading slump at the moment. I would suggest trying this one if the topic interests you, otherwise I wouldn’t bother. It wasn’t a bad book, but as far as cultural/historical fiction goes, there is much better reading material out there.

Final Note: Extremely disappointing read. I didn’t hate it, but when your expectations for a book are high and it doesn’t live up to them, it’s a huge, depressing letdown.
To purchase a copy of The Sandalwood Tree from Amazon.com, click here: The Sandalwood Tree.

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