Claire Scobie | The Pagoda Tree
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The Pagoda Tree

Unfolding against a dramatic backdrop, The Pagoda Tree takes you deep into the heart of India. Join me on my publishing journey as I share the highs and lows of being an author these days. This five-star Best Fiction Read will be published in  June 2017 by Unbound.

First published by Penguin (2013) in Australia to widespread criticial acclaim, it will now be available in the UK and India.

Buy the book on Amazon.

Below is a selection of quotes and links to articles about the novel.

‘This is a novel to be savoured’ Sydney Morning Herald

What the critics say

‘This is a novel to be savoured … Its layering, the unravelling of the story, the subtext of the fortunes made and lost on cotton and silk, the evocative descriptions of saris themselves are all part of [its] tapestry.’

Candida Baker in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

‘Meticulously researched, this gripping book is a brilliant and evocative portrayal of India in the late 1700s. It paints a vivid picture of the spiritual devotion and mesmerising movements of a Hindu temple dancer, the trading world in Madras and the British encroachment on India. … [It] would make a spectacular film.’

Ros Burton in Goodreading Magazine – 5-star read

‘The research Scobie has undertaken provides a rich historical picture of a nation on the cusp of immense change … These contrasts and contradictions are what make The Pagoda Tree a nuanced and sophisticated exploration of the socio-historical realities that are inevitable when cultures collide.’

Meredith Jaffe in The Hoopla

‘[This] is a story told with great panache and I can’t wait to read more from this writer.’ Annabel Lawson in Country Style Book Club, November 2013

‘Claire Scobie travels a vast and exotic terrain in her first novel.’
 Corrie Perkin, The Weekly Review, 17 July 2013

‘Claire Scobie brings 18th century India … to brilliantly detailed life in this enjoyable novel. … [She] is a skilled author who writes with colour and feeling.’ Central Telegraph

‘Vivid and sensual’ on Lisa Walker’s blog, December 2013


‘[An] interesting historical novel [that] evokes … the zeigeist of that era.’
India Link, October 24 2013

The Pagoda Tree ‘offers new ways of seeing the past.’ Alison Broinowski in Canberra Times

‘I can’t wait to read more from this writer’ Annabel Lawson in Country Style

What other writers say

‘Scrupulously imagined and vividly detailed, Claire Scobie brilliantly evokes India on the eve of British rule, along with the complications that arise from an uneasy mix of cultures.’  Manju Kapur, Custody

‘A beautiful, absorbing tale of eighteenth-century India, with vividly imagined characters and writing as sensual and spiritually evocative as its subject.’ Mick Brown, The Spiritual Tourist

‘In evocative prose Claire Scobie sketches a layered eighteenth-century world of temple dancers, traders and imperialists. Meticulously researched, the writing packs an emotional punch.’ Pallavi Aiyar, Punjabi Parmesan: Dispatches from a Europe in Crisis

‘A moving, empathetic novel set in eighteenth-century India.’ Namita Gokhale, Things to Leave Behind 

The Pagoda Tree is a gripping and vivid page-turner even as it cleaves to history. Claire Scobie’s tightly scripted novel is about lost artistry and lost humanity. Her brilliance lies in depicting the complex nuances of the devadasi culture and the temple dancers of south India when the selling of female talent to the highest bidder was no longer determined by caste, but the content of a man’s wallet. Scobie shows the colonisers as brutal and exploitative, but the novel’s centre is Maya who, like her name, embodies the illusion of power.’ Malashri Lal, co-editor, Speaking for Myself: Women’s Writing in Asia

‘Claire Scobie’s seductive prose and immaculate layering of period detail capture India at her most exotic.’ Susan Kurosawa, The Australian travel editor

‘Women’s stories are rarely told in history, nor particularly honoured. The Pagoda Tree offers a powerful, sensual perspective on a time of great transformation in India.’ Sarah Macdonald, author of Holy Cow

The Pagoda Tree is set in 18th century Southern India with all its colour and brutality. It’s a vast canvas for anyone to tackle but Claire is an intrepid traveller and has spent a great deal of time in that part of the world. Reading the book gives one a sense of how deeply she is connected to that place. I can only imagine the enormous amount of research that has gone into writing this book. [Yet] it’s something of a miracle that this research is all but invisible.

The experience of reading The Pagoda Tree is not like opening a window to that 18th century world. We are not dazzled by scholarship. The novel is very much time present. We are not observers of this world, we are inside it. It’s immediate, it’s visceral. The textures, the sounds, the smells surround us. It’s an immersive experience… .

As a writer Claire has guts. There is a toughness to her work. She is unflinching when it comes to writing scenes of great brutality and unbearable suffering. A lesser writer would allow us to turn away. She holds us close too for those moments of great intimacy and tenderness that, for me, are the very heart of the book.

For this novel is as much about love as it is about exile. It’s a rich and enthralling story handled with great skill by someone with a profound understanding of her material.’

David Roach, screenwriter and film director, Beneath Hill 60 & Red Obssession

‘Your novel… was my source of oxygen’ Melinda Jewell

What the readers say

‘I’m up to chapter 38 and a bit hesitant to continue-afraid of what is going to happen. I’m loving the book-very impressed … Oh you broke my heart. I’m still smarting from the last chapters. Congratulations.’ Tanmaya

‘Beautiful work on The Pagoda Tree @clairescobie – evocative, gripping, it barely left my hands all weekend. Great read.’ Fiona Dewar

‘What a wonderful book you have written. I finished it last weekend – I couldn’t put it down … I have that awful grief for her and grief for the ending of an intense journey written so beautifully. … One of the best books I have read in years. Really well done.’ Linda Bates

‘I just finished your novel! I loved it! Read it in speed time, just had to read on. One of those moments where I started carrying it around with me like it was my source of oxygen.’ Melinda Jewell

Print articles & interviews with Claire during the Australian release of The Pagoda Tree (Penguin ANZ)

The Pagoda Tree also appeared in the Inner West Courier, Coffs Harbour Advocate, Burnie Advocate, Wauchope Gazette, Bellingen Courier Sun, Camden Haven Courier and Don Dorrigo Gazette.

Online reviews, interviews & articles about The Pagoda Tree