The Sandalwood Tree
It’s 1947, and Americans Martin and Evie Mitchell and their five-year-old son are in India. Martin is one of the first recipients of the Fulbright scholarship. His project is to document the end of the British Raj and India’s division into Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India. Evie sees their time in India as an adventure and hopes to restore her marriage to its happier state, before Martin returned from his service in World War II. He is scarred by the brutality he saw during the war and won’t talk about it with Evie. He goes out every day to work, and Evie stays home in their little bungalow and cleans obsessively.
During her cleaning, Evie stumbles upon a cache of hidden letters that tell part of the story of a forbidden love between a Victorian Englishwoman and an Indian man in 1857. Evie is fascinated and curious about this woman, the previous occupant of her house, who was determined to live life on her own terms, and she searches out more information about her. Along the way, she comes to understand more about the Indian attitude towards life, which helps her deal with the problems in her own life.
Newmark does a wonderful job depicting life in India during two very different time periods, the British Raj and the British withdrawal. The main characters, Martin and Evie, are interesting and likeable, albeit stressed. In addition, the supporting characters are richly drawn and add an element of humor. A very enjoyable story.