19 March 2011

The Sandalwood Tree


First Line: Our train hurtled past a gold-spangled woman in a strawberry sari, regal yet sitting on the ground, patting cow dung into disks to dry in the scorching sun - her cooking fuel.

Publisher's Synopsis:  From incredible storyteller and national bestseller Elle Newmark comes a rich, sweeping novel that brings to life two love stories, ninety years apart, set against the backdrop of war-torn India.

Bursting with lavish detail and vivid imagery of Bombay and beyond, The Sandalwood Tree is a powerful story about betrayal, forgiveness, fate, and love.

There are two types of fiction, in my mind. There are novels, and there are literature. (IS literature?) This book is what I consider literature.

I was captivated within the first couple of pages. It's a beautiful and evocative story, or rather two stories in one. The narrator, Evie, and her husband and child have moved from America to India in 1947, where pending partition is making it not quite a safe place to be. She has found some old letters/diary pages written by a young English girl who lived in the same bungalow with her best friend in the 1850s. Evie becomes a little obsessed with their story, wanting to learn more about the girls and what happened to them.

Evie and her husband's marriage has been strained ever since he returned from the war, and she hoped that being in India with him would give them a fresh start, a chance to find each other again. The author keeps us guessing practically to the last few pages as to how their relationship will turn out.

Both stories are beautifully told. And what is basically a character driven novel suddenly at one point becomes full of tense action. Suffice it to say, I loved this book. Loved it.

(I won this ARC in a Goodreads giveaway. The release date is April 5, 2011)

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