Thursday, June 27, 2013

Audio Book Review: The Sandalwood Tree, by Elle Newmark

The Sandalwood Tree is a very interesting historical tale of India in the 1940s (and the 1850s).

Our main character Evie goes to India with her husband who will be interviewing the native population as they are released from British rule. Evie is hoping that this trip will reunite her relationship with her husband, who has suffered from PTSD (although it's not called that) since he fought in WWII in Germany.

They bring their 5-year-old son with them. They live in a bungalow in a small town in a remote part of India. In the bungalow behind a loose brick, Evie finds a packet of letters that have been written between two women beginning in 1857. They are both British women and one of them lived in the bungalow in India.

Evie slowly pieces together the story of these women, and at the same time tries to figure out what she can do to help her husband. She's an unconventional women in India -- wearing pants and not associating much with the British elite in the country. She enjoys learning about the Indian culture, teaching English to the native children, eating the native food and learning their customs -- unlike most of the British.

The stories have some parallels, since there was an Indian uprising in 1857 during the time of the letters, and now that the British are leaving, there is violence among the Hindus and Muslims, who are being forced to separate into two countries -- India and the new Pakistan.

The Sandalwood Tree is a story about family and romance. There are lessons about bigotry and acceptance. People die. Even the 5-year-old has something happen to him, so there's a lot going on. Evie traces a big family secret about the women in the 1850s all the way to the present time, and you feel such a sense of triumph when she finally pieces it all together.

The Sandalwood Tree is pretty slow and meandering, especially at the beginning. But the details are rich and you will be rewarded if you stick with it.

Since I listened to the audiobook, I was easily kept enthralled in the story. Justine Eyre, the narrator, does a brilliant job with all the accents and voices. Nothing over the top, but easily distinguishable -- and this is no easy task, with all the different characters from many different places.

If you are at all interested in India, The Sandalwood Tree is highly recommended. I think it would be a great book for book club discussions. I would love to be able to discuss some things with someone! While it is a bit long and detailed, teens who are interested in the subject will also enjoy The Sandalwood Tree.

Published by Atria, 2011, Tantor Media for the audiobook
Copy obtained from the library
368 pages

Rating: 4/5

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  1. This sounds *really* interesting! The changeover from British rule in India was such a tumultuous time and so intriguing.

  2. I loved this one and I'm glad to see you enjoyed it too. I agree - the details were fabulous!

  3. The stories about family and romance really get to me


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