Shop H.E. Bates Online
ID
a61
Title
The Jacaranda Tree
Genre
Novel
Page Count
224
Word Count
83000
Publisher
John Bull
Michael Joseph
Publication Year
1948
Document Types
Full-text Online
Social Commentary
Topics
War, Asia

London: Michael Joseph, 1949 (January); Boston: Little Brown (An Atlantic Monthly Press Book), 1949 (January). Serialized in 1948 in John Bull (one installment verified for November 27, the last installment verified in the issue for the week ending December 25). Eads (66) notes "a total of 74,423 copies were sold. A Book Society choice issued on first publication by The Book Society Ltd," although that figure must refer only to the original Michael Joseph publication, since Bates himself (World in Ripeness, 110) cites higher sales than The Purple Plain, which Baldwin (163) cites as selling over 850,000 copies.

Bates's second novel of the Far East (following The Purple Plain and preceding The Scarlet Sword) depicts the escape to India of various residents of a Burmese village. Bates, in The World in Ripeness (76-77, 109-110), notes that while "I had seen the terrain and the people of The Purple Plain and had absorbed the electrifying atmosphere of central Burma through not only my eyes but the very pores of my skin, I had seen not one inch of the far distant territory over which the long and tragic trek to India had been made in bitter and horrifying circumstances when the Japanese had occupied Singapore and invaded Burma in 1942." He proudly relates a conversation with a survivor of that retreat who found his description completely accurate, as evidence of the success of his "imagination and instinct." He also recounts meeting, on his arrival in India, a heavy-drinking man who "was a planter in Burma...on the long march to India when the Japs moved in...His sorrow...rose from the fact that his personal bearer, a mere boy, had died on the journey. The severance of this deep personal bond, born of mutual love and loyalty, had had so great an effect on him that he had been crushed into a state of morbid melancholia." In the novel, the servant survives, as does his sister (who is the planter's mistress) and the planter (Peterson) himself; three English characters remain in Burma to provide humanitarian service, and the remaining English evacuees all die due to their individual temperaments and relationships. Baldwin (168-169) notes that some details of the book were "derived from a diary [Bates] purchased from one who survived the retreat."

The New Statesman and Nation criticizes the novel, saying that Bates had "been debauched" by the World War into writing simple for the "successful American magazine serial" while the New York Times reviewers find it "beautifully written and skillfully planned" and that the "sounds, the smells, the searing sunlight, the wheeling vultures, the masses of natives, the fruit piles of lime, orange and papaya -- these things are brushed in with such artistry that the tale as a whole becomes a living experience for the reader." And the Times Literary Supplement says "there is a freshness and enthusiasm about his writing...that entitles the book to rank with his very best work."

Reviews:

New Statesman and Nation (February 5, 1949, p. 134, Sidney Harcourt-Smith, attached)

New York Times (January 13, 1949, p. 21, Charles Poore, attached)

New York Times (January 30, 1949, p. BR18, Florence Crowther, attached)

Saturday Review of Literature (January 8, 1949, p. 9, Edmund Fuller, attached)

The Spectator (January 21, 1949, p. 94, Olivia Manning, attached)

Times Literary Supplement (January 22, 1949, p. 53, Julian Gustave Symons, attached)

Online Full Text at Hathi Trust Digital Library.