THE SANDALWOOD TREE by Elle Newmark

THE SANDALWOOD TREE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A busy, twin-themed historical links the lives and loves of rule-breaking women across two centuries.

Newmark (The Book of Unholy Mischief, 2008) stirs enough ingredients for several volumes into her second novel set in India in the mid-19th and 20th centuries, where three women live through periods of violent political turmoil. In 1947, Jewish-American Fulbright scholar Martin, his Catholic wife Evaleen and their son Billy arrive in Masoorla, a village in Hindustan. Previously happy, this marriage is now threatened by Martin’s undisclosed experiences fighting in World War II, which have changed him. Evaleen’s discovery of a cache of letters in their house introduces two young British women, Felicity and Adela, who stayed there in the 1850s. While the end of British occupation and Partition dominate Evaleen’s visit, Felicity and Adela lived at the time of the Sepoy Rebellion, two periods of horrific bloodshed. Felicity, meanwhile, had tuberculosis and was scandalously impregnated by her Sikh lover while Adela nursed an unrequited passion for her friend. Having heaped up the issues and parallels, Newmark resolves them easily. Evaleen stumbles across multiple mystery-solving fragments of the historical story, while a threat to her own family leads to the long-awaited confrontation of her marital difficulties.

Unbalanced—heavy on storytelling, short on enchantment.

Pub Date: April 5th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4165-9059-0
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Atria
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2011