Three Slightly Disappointing Reads

The Sandalwood Tree

The Sandalwood Tree – Elle Newmark

Five words from the blurb: Indian, marriage, memories, letters, friendship

The Sandalwood Tree is set in 1947 and follows a British couple, Evie and Martin, who move to India with their five-year-old son so Martin can report on the Partition. Evie discovers some letters hidden in the brickwork of their new home and sets out to discover everything she can about their origin, a hundred years earlier.

I think this book was severely hindered by me reading it immediately after Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry – the descriptions of Indian life seemed basic and lifeless in comparison. The Sandalwood Tree was fast paced and easy to read, but I failed to form any real connection to the characters and so didn’t really care what happened to them. The ending was satisfying, but I’m afraid it was too little, too late for me.  If you loved East of the Sun by Julia Gregson (I didn’t) then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one, but it was a bit too basic for me.


The Sealed Letter

The Sealed Letter – Emma Donoghue

Five words from the blurb: Victorian, women’s movement, marriage, affair, divorce

I loved Room and have been wanting to try one of Emma Donoghue’s other books for a while. The Sealed Letter was published in Canada in 2008, but has just been released for the first time in the UK.

The book is set in Victorian London and is based upon a scandalous divorce case. I initially loved the detailed descriptions of life in 1864 (especially the first encounter with the London underground!) but as the book progressed I began to tire of the way every object was described in minute detail – it felt over researched.

Court cases do nothing for me a at the best of times and this one was particularly slow and painful to read.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction and would like to know what life was like for women during this time period then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book, but I think it would have worked better as a piece of non-fiction.


The End of Everything

The End of Everything – Megan Abbott

Five words from the blurb: thirteen, friend, missing, confused, unflinching

The End of Everything was one of Richard and Judy’s Autumn Reads and it seems to divide opinion. Unfortunately I was one of those people who wasn’t very impressed by it.

The book follows Lizzie, a thirteen-year-old girl whose best friend goes missing. Lizzie sets out to discover what happened to her friend, but she also knows more than she is letting on.

The missing child premise has been done so many times before that the writing needs to be really special for something new to be added and unfortunately it didn’t have that magic spark for me.

The main problem I had with this book was that the teenage voices didn’t feel realistic and the writing failed to engage me. I also found the pace to be too slow for the plot.

Recommended to those who still get excited by “missing child” stories.




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  1. Alyce says:

    I think the only one that would have drawn my attention is The Sealed Letter. I hadn’t been aware of that author’s other books.

    1. Jackie says:

      Alyce, Emma Donoghue has written quite a few books, but didn’t become very well known until she published Room last year. I’m still keen to try a few of her others. Hopefully they’ll be more to my taste.

  2. I haven’t heard much of these. I hate when I dislike a book, but it happens.

    1. Jackie says:

      Mrs Q, It wouldn’t be special if we enjoyed everything we read. I quite like reading a few (not too many!) poorer ones so I can see the magic in the others.

  3. I think we’re drifting apart, Jackie! I really enjoyed The Sandalwood Tree and (very good comparison by you) I also very much enjoyed East of the Sun.

    Maybe as you say, reading another India book just beforehand spoiled it a little for you. I liked it that this book wasn’t so in-your-face India.

    1. Jackie says:

      Judith, We may be drifting apart, but I’m getting a very good idea of where that split is now. I think I now know which types of books to avoid when you recommend them ;-) (but also which books to rush out and buy :-) )

  4. The only other book I’ve read of Donoghue’s was Kissing the Witch. Loved it. Just enough of a wicked retake on some favored fairy tales. I would recommend giving it a go.

    1. Jackie says:

      Andi, I haven’t heard of Kissing the Witch, but I love the title! I’ll keep an eye out for it. Thanks for the recommendation.

  5. Mystica says:

    The first two books were the ones which drew me, particularly the Victorian themed one.

    1. Jackie says:

      Mystica, They did sound good :-(

  6. Sorry these were a bit of a letdown; I haven’t read any of them.

    1. Jackie says:

      Diane, I think you might enjoy them all a bit more than I did, but not sure you’d love them enough for me to insist you go for it.

  7. Amused says:

    I am sorry you didn’t enjoy the Sandalwood Tree. I loved that book. I enjoy pretty much any book set in India though :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Amused, I love books set in India, but I think I’ve read so many outstanding ones that I am very fussy when it comes to capturing the atmosphere. Glad you enjoyed it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Christa, It sounds as though we had very similar reactions to the book. I don’t understand why they are marketing it as a thriller/mystery. At least we know we aren’t alone in our opinion of it.

  8. Beth F says:

    I too liked Sandalwood Tree. I haven’t read the others. But we all can’t like everything.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, I know a lot of people love that book, but I agree it would be a dull world if we all liked the same books.

  9. Stephanie says:

    I enjoyed The Sealed Letter but didn’t think that it was nearly as good as Slammerkin or Room, which were both fantastic!

    1. Jackie says:

      Stephanie, I have heard a few people raving about Slammerkin – I will ensure I read it at some point.

  10. Oh wow, I felt the complete opposite about The Sandalwood Tree! I know that my knowledge of languages helped me there though, and I can understand it when you say reading it after another spoiled it a bit, I did the same earlier this year.

    I like the sound of The Sealed Letter, but minute detail for everything doesn’t sound fun. In that way it would make a better non-fiction – there’s something about non-fiction that makes repetition more agreeable than it would be in fiction.

  11. Jenners says:

    I kind of want to try more Emma Donoghue as well … perhaps I will go with Slammerkin instead.

  12. Kailana says:

    I have The Sealed Letter on my TBR pile. I have tried to get into in before, but just wasn’t working for me… I did really enjoy Slammerkin by her, though!


  1. Orange Reading: The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue | Iris on Books

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