Finished April 7
The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark
This novel takes place in two different times. In 1947, Evie Mitchell is moving to India with her husband Martin and young son Billy. Martin returned from World War II changed, and Evie hopes that this time in India will help bring him back. Martin is an anthropologist and is coming to India on a Fulbright scholarship to research the end of the Raj and Partition. The two met while at University, where Evie was an aspiring astronomer. They come from different background. Martin's parents are Jewish academics and Evie's father is a blue collar Catholic.
In the small bungalow the two rent near Simla, Evie finds a cache of letters hidden behind a brick in the kitchen. They are dated from the 1850s, and Evie becomes fascinated by the two women who wrote the letters, searching for their story.
Felicity Chadwick and Adela Winfield are the two women, and we learn of their friendship, which began when Felicity was sent to England for her education while her parents continued to live in India. The letters date from when Felicity returned to England as a young woman.
Both time periods are ones of unrest. In the 1850s, there was the Sepoy Rebellion also known as India's First War of Independence, and upcoming Partition causes great unrest within India.
Evie is feeling lonely and isolated, without even her husband as a real companion. The local British have their own outlook that Evie finds colonial. Her ayah Rashmi, takes it upon herself to offer puja and advice to resolve what she sees are Evie's problems, much to Evie's embarrassment. She explores the local area, despite her husband's concerns, as part of her search for Felicity and Adela's story.
Felicity and Adela are both rebels in their time as well, dreaming of independence and a life without subjugation to a husband. Living on her own in India, Felicity is outside the world of her fellow Britons in many ways.
In both time periods, it is a crisis situation that changes how the women interact with those around them, bringing them closer and changing their relationships with those around them. I liked the independent spirit and curiosity displayed by the characters and their growth over time.