The Pagoda Tree
I found this book an easy read which was both engaging and informative. Set in India in the 1700s the story centres around Maya who is destined to become a dancer of the temple. Throughout the book we encounter the hardships she has to endure due to war and famine.
The author has obviously done a lot of research about this era and I learned a lot about how brutal the English were as they stormed through parts of India. It is partly a love story between Maya and a young ambitious Englishman which we know is doomed from the start.
It is a story of different religions and beliefs and different cultures which I think is described quite well. All through the book dance is a main theme and even after everything Maya has been through she still uses dance to entrance people. For me I like a book that pieces together at the end with everyone connected in some way which is exactly what this books does, however some people may think that it relies too much on coincidence.
This is my personal review and not that of the whole group.
The Pagoda Tree is engaging and enchanting. Almost but not quite epic. It is full of evocative imagery which is both beautiful and brutal at times. It's not a difficult to read book and the history of India in the late 1700's, told from a woman's perspective is fascinating. The words flow quite smoothly but the narrative is a little cluncky at times and occasionally cliched. I would have no hesitation in recommending this book as it was an absorbing and interesting read.
I enjoyed many aspects of this book. I love reading about periods of time that I don't know anything about and until I read this book I knew nothing about India during this period. I had never heard of devadeshi. I thought the author is extremely good at using beautiful imagery to capture the wonder, alienness and savage beauty of India. The book is wonderfully researched and you are able to immerse yourself in foreign but spectacular culture. I also liked Maya as a strong female character who was exploring her role in the world and how she exploited the limited power she was able to attain in a male dominated society. I found all the women characters the best fleshed out and interesting.
However I found that sometimes I found the characters a bit flat particularly during the middle of the book especially the English characters. I found her characterisation a bit thin and it felt like the characters were acting to fulfil particular plot points rather than them driving the plot. I also found the love story between Maya and Thomas unsatisfactory. It felt more like they were in lust with each others differences rather than being really in love. I also found that I didn't really like the time skips. I found this broke up my reading and made it hard to pick up from where the time skip left off. I also felt the time skips were a missed opportunity to explore more of what sounded like really interesting periods such as the fall of Lahore. I did struggle with the middle of the book but felt it really picked up at the end.
I would recommend this book to people who like beautifully set historical fiction and books with strong female characters.
I was given a copy to review by the publishers.
I loved The Pagoda Tree, it is a book that evokes the passion, culture and history of India. Claire Scobie has obviously researched her subject well and brings the story to life. I learnt about the influence of the British on the lives of the Indian population, both personal, political and financial and this was something about which I had limited knowledge.
Maya the main character in the story changes throughout the book and becomes more confident and stronger as her life unfolds.
The ending gives a hint of enticing opportunities and hope.
I didn't enjoy this book, in fact I didn't finish it, I got three quarters of the way through and got bored with it, I can appreciate the research that the Author has put into this book but I didn't care enough about the characters to carry on, at times I felt like I was just reading a "posh" chick lit, well maybe so, as it is a love story afterall
Gloucester Book Club were given free copies of this novel. It is meticulously researched. The endnotes are very helpful for the reader who may not be familiar with the historical background. Atmospheric, the unpredictable storyline hooks the reader in and it becomes compelling. There are switches between timeframe and view points, some loose ends too. Maya takes some risks in her quest for love, which perhaps make her seem a bit too modern for the time. Recommended but with reservations.
I enjoyed this book. I found it very insightful to the traditions of the time period it was based in. It is well written and easy to follow
Once again “mixed reviews”. We were split between really enjoyed it and found it boring! These are the comments of our members.
● Found it educational, not my usual genre but enjoyed it, would read another by this author.
● Enjoyed it, I was fascinated by the history and religious aspects.
● I found it very interesting, I felt the quotes on the cover were true. The characters were well painted and I could visualise Maya well in her dancing and posture in general. The discipline of the training was well portrayed and also the contrast between society then and now was clear.
● An easy read but didn’t like the way the cruelty of the army was portrayed. I wanted more detail about costumes and jewellery.
● A well written historical novel.
● Well researched, the ending although sad, tied up loose ends.
● An evocative tale of the India of the time, the sights, colours, customs and smells leap off the page
• Felt it started well but it came to feel like homework, got fed up by end of Part 2
• Found the writing style tedious, stilted and I felt it didn’t flow
• Found it an uncomfortable read because of the prevailing attitudes of Westerners in India at the time
• I lost interest in Maya and thought the love story was not convincing.
• Too many characters, so I lost track of some of them
• Felt there was no depth to first half but found the second half more interesting.
Reviewed by Penistone Library Readers Group and we gave it three and a half stars.