Maya plays among the towering granite temples in the ancient city of Tanjore. Like her mother before her, she is destined to become a devadasi, a dancer for the temple, and her family all expect that the prince himself will choose her as a courtesan.
On the day of her initiation, a stranger arrives in town. Walter Sutcliffe, a black-frocked English clergyman, strives to offer moral guidance to the British troops stationed in Tanjore. But he is beset by his own demons.
As the British tear apart the princely kingdoms of India, Maya flees her ancestral home and heads to the steamy port city of Madras, where silks and satins are traded, poets vie for patrons, and fortunes are lost and found.
When the shrieks of parrots fill the skies at dusk, Maya bows to the earth and starts to dance. Thomas Pearce, an ambitious young Englishman, is entranced from the moment he first sees her. But their love is forbidden and the consequences are devastating.
Unfolding amid war and famine, The Pagoda Tree takes us deep into the heart of India as the country struggles under brutal occupation. As cultures collide, Walter Sutcliffe unknowingly plays the decisive card in Maya's destiny.
Claire Scobie is an award-winning British journalist and author who has lived and worked in the UK, India and Australia. Her travel memoir, Last Seen in Lhasa, won the 2007 Dolman Best Travel Book Award. In 2017, a new memoir, A Baboon in the Bedroom, co-authored with her mother Patricia Scobie, is being released. She has written for numerous publications, including the Daily Telegraph and the Observer. Through her consultancy, Wordstruck, Claire advises companies and leaders on how to harness the power of storytelling as a strategic business tool. She runs writing courses in Australia, Asia and the UK, and mentors writers one-on-one. In 2013, she completed a Doctorate of Creative Arts at Western Sydney University. The Pagoda Tree is her first novel. clairescobie.com wordstruck.com.au @clairescobie