1947 is the year of Britain’s withdrawal from India; it is also a time of civil unrest. Planned Partition is set to happen even against the will of Gandhi. It is a dangerous time to both visitors as well as the differing factions in India. It is during this war-torn strife that Martin Mitchell wins a Fellowship to study in India. He is there to document the end of the 200 years of British Raj. Arriving with his wife Evie and son Billy they settle into their new home with care.
Evie plans to use the time to work on her marriage, Martin is not the same man she married. The War in Europe changed him into an angry and introspective man. While Evie is cleaning and making the bungalow ready, she finds some letters hidden behind a brick in the chimney. Why are they hidden? Just that question alone creates a mystery that envelopes Evie's curiosity.
There is something about the letters, dated from 1846-1851 and following the lives of two young women named Adela Winfield and Felicity Chadwick, that intrigue her. Curious as to why the letters were hidden, it makes her want to know more about the two. There is something fascinating about reading how life was in a prior time.
As her life with Martin continues to erode, she immerses herself in the mystery and romance that becomes clear through the writing of these long ago notes. The small parcel of letters she finds is not enough and she decides to make a quest to find whatever information she can to learn their true story. Beginning at the cemetery, it guides her to the church where parish records are kept. It is here in the records she finds further letters and records of the lives of Adela and Felicity. Further search for information takes her into the bazaars and temples of India, looking for more. It is during this further search that she learns of a dark secret. This secret only further drives a wedge in her marriage.
Will her marriage ever be the same? In The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark, we follow the lives of the Mitchell family as well as the lives and times of the two young Englishwomen, Adela and Felicity. The letters are wonderful and well detailed, taking you back to an earlier time and place. As you follow their story, you forget they are not in the here and now, and like Evie you want to know more. The details are scintillating and their actions are bold for the times, yet they demand your admiration. From their lives in England to their relocation to India, they remain fast and true to the end. They are the best of friends with a secret that could certainly put them at risk. Will it be worth it?