Monday, March 21, 2011

The Sandalwood Tree-Elle Newmark

The Sandalwood Tree
Elle Newmark
Atria, Apr 5 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9781416590590

In 1947, Jewish-American scholar Martin Mitchell earns a Fulbright grant to study Indian politics. He takes his Catholic wife Evaleen and their son Billy to Masoorla, Hindustan at a time when their marriage is shaky as he came back from the war a changed person.

Meanwhile Evie finds letters from the 1850s written by two foreign female occupants of the same house the Mitchell family resides in. The British women (Felicity and Adela) were concerned with the bloody Sepoy Revolt, but that takes a back seat to when Felicity becomes pregnant carrying her Sikh lover’s child; while Evie worries about her family’s safety after the Partition, but cannot stop researching what happened to Felicity and Adela.

This is an entertaining insightful look at India through the eyes of three women during two tumultuous eras. Thus the story line has a historiography feel as a 1947 American expatriate reads the letters written a century earlier by two British expatriates. The 1850s saga is the fresher subplot due to being less known today by most readers than the 1947 Independence days. Although the Mitchell marital woes wrap up to quickly, historical readers will feel transported to both eras by Elle Newmark’s well written the Sandalwood Tree.

Harriet Klausner

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