I just finished The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark the other day and the novel is still so much on my mind (my review). It’s beautifully written and a story that captured my attention. It’s one of those novels that you regret finishing because you wished it would go on a little longer. Today Elle Newmark joins us at Peeking Between the Pages to talk about her travels for the novel and her visit to the Taj Mahal. Please enjoy Elle’s guest post entitled The Taj Mahal…
While in India, researching The Sandalwood Tree, I visited the Taj Mahal. My first surprise was that it only looks pure white from a distance. As you approach, you begin to see the subtle nuances in the marble, and up close you see delicate gemstones inlaid in floral motifs and passages from the Koran chiseled into the pillars. Like love, the Taj is much more complicated up close.
But what’s one more royal tomb without a story a good love story to give it gravitas? The story behind the Taj involves a queen who died at the age of thirty-nine while giving birth to her fourteenth child. On her deathbed she asked two things of her husband. First, that he build her a glorious tomb, and second, that he never marry again.
Am I the only one who senses world-class jealously in that request? Yes, I know I’m cynical. But still…
The Taj took twenty-two years to build and during its construction the king found a new love—architecture. He became so consumed by the project that when the Taj was finished he immediately began work on another for himself.
He never remarried during the thirty-five years he lived after the queen’s death, and so he kept both his vow. Of course, the rules of epic romance demand that, in the telling, this story must imply that the king lived the remainder of his life celibate, completely devoted to the memory of his lost queen.
But he was a relatively young man and I wanted to ask my guide whether the king ever had—what would you call them? Concubines? Girlfriends? After all, she only asked him not to marry. But to ask that question while standing on the steps of the Taj Mahal would have been like questioning the existence of God in a church.
If the king—who already had heirs aplenty, and no need for another queen—if, from time to time, the king needed a woman, well, he was the king, and, technically, he could have a whole harem as long as he didn’t marry anyone.
The king and his queen are buried side by side in twin sarcophagi, and as I gazed upon their eternal togetherness I understood that it didn’t matter whether she was jealous or what the king did after her death. How petty and dull of me to sully a perfectly good fairytale with such a realistic question. I might as well ask why Cinderella’s glass slippers didn’t break. You’re not supposed to go the Taj Mahal and zero in on details. You’re supposed to step back and be awed.
I looked up as a dove swooped through one arch and out another, and I understood. The Taj Mahal combines sublime architecture and epic romance to remind us of the heights to which human beings can aspire. The Taj Mahal is magic because it allows, even cynics like me, the opportunity to step back and be awed.
Thank you so much for this wonderful guest post Elle! I’d love to visit the Taj Mahal someday – what an experience that would be!
About the Book (from Amazon.com)
A sweeping novel that brings to life two love stories, ninety years apart, set against the rich backdrop of war-torn India.
In 1947, American historian and veteran of WWII, Martin Mitchell, wins a Fulbright Fellowship to document the end of British rule in India. His wife, Evie, convinces him to take her and their young son along, hoping a shared adventure will mend their marriage, which has been strained by war.
But other places, other wars. Martin and Evie find themselves stranded in a colonial bungalow in the Himalayas due to violence surrounding the partition of India between Hindus and Muslims. In that house, hidden behind a brick wall, Evie discovers a packet of old letters, which tell a strange and compelling story of love and war involving two young Englishwomen who lived in the same house in 1857.
Drawn to their story, Evie embarks on a mission to piece together her Victorian mystery. Her search leads her through the bazaars and temples of India as well as the dying society of the British Raj. Along the way, Martin’s dark secret is exposed, unleashing a new wedge between Evie and him. As India struggles toward Independence, Evie struggles to save her marriage, pursuing her Victorian ghosts for answers.
Bursting with lavish detail and vivid imagery of Calcutta and beyond, The Sandalwood Tree is a powerful story about betrayal, forgiveness, fate, and love.
Check out the Book Trailer…
About the Author (from Amazon.com)
Elle Newmark is an award-winning writer whose books are inspired by her travels. She and her husband, a retired physician, have two grown children and five grandchildren. They live in the hills north of San Diego.
I have one copy of The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark to share with my readers. To enter…
- For 1 entry leave me a comment with an email address to contact you in the event that you win.
- For 2 entries, follow my blog. If you already do, thank you, and please let me know so I can pass on the extra entry to you as well.
- For 3 entries, blog or tweet this giveaway and spread the word.
This giveaway is open to US & Canadian residents only (no PO boxes). I will draw for the winner on Saturday, May 21/11. Good luck to you all!
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