Published: Apr 2011
Pages: 489 (Paperback)
Source: Transworld Book Group Reading Challenge
My Rating: 9/10
About the Book:
It is 1947, and Evie and Martin Mitchell have just arrived in the Indian village of Masoorla with their five-year-old son. But cracks soon appear in their marriage as Evie struggles to adapt to her new life, and Martin fails to bury unbearable wartime memories.
When Evie finds a collection of letters, concealed deep in the brickwork of their rented bungalow, so begins an investigation that consumes her, allowing her to escape to another world, a hundred years earlier, and to the extraordinary friendship of two very different young women.
And as Evie’s fascination with her Victorian discoveries deepens, she unearths powerful secrets. But at what cost to her present, already fragile existence?
Our train hurtled past a gold-spangled woman in a mango sari, regal even as she sat in the dirt, patting cow dung into disks for cooking fuel. A sweep of black hair obscured her face and she did not look up as the passing train shook the ground under her bare feet.
We first meet Evie and Martin as they are travelling to their new home in India where an old Sandalwood Tree with long oval leaves and pregnant red pods presided over the front of their new house.
Martin had come back from the war with combat fatigue, he wanted everything neat and tidy - it was about control, Evie knew, but she didn’t know how to deal with it. By coming to India she hoped that their cracked marriage would be mended with exotic glue, and they would rediscover the charmed world they had shared in the beginning of their marriage.
When Evie discovers a loose brick behind the cooker which hides a packet of folded papers tied with a faded blue ribbon which ‘reeked of long-lost secrets’ she becomes obsessed with the two English ladies who lived a hundred years ago and whose letters she is now engrossed in reading.
We are then taken back to the mid 19th century as the young Felicity and Adela first meet and they become firm friends. We follow them as they grow up and, by a remarkable coincidence they both end up living in India.
There are more coincidences when Evie unearths more of Adela’s journals in various locations which I did find hard to believe.
I loved how the two parallel stories also coincided with the Indian uprisings in each century, the author didn’t take sides with either the British or the Indians, she just gave us the facts and left it to the reader to decide the morals.
I enjoyed the overall story, it was slow at first but the pace quickened about halfway through, some of the characters I connected with more than others and the descriptions of India were vivid and real.
This was my first book in the Transworld Book Group Reading Challenge. Click here for more information and to participate and click here to see which 4 books I've chosen.