Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Tea Planter's Wife

The Tea Planter's Wife
By Dinah Jefferies
Publisher Broadway Books
Published June 20th 2017 
(first published August 27th 2015)
FTC Reviewed for Blogging for Books.

Back of the Book

In the lush, atmospheric page-turner, nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper has married Laurence, the seductively mysterious owner of a vast tea empire in colonial Ceylon, after a whirlwind romance in London. When she joins him at his faraway tea plantation, she's filled with hope for their life together, eager to take the role of mistress of the house, learn the tea business and start a family. But life, in Ceylon is not what Gwen expected. The plantation workers are resentful, the neighbors and her new sister-in-law treacherous. Gwen finds herself drawn to a local Sinhalese man of questionable intentions and worried about her new husbands connection to a brash American businesswoman. But most troubling are the unanswered questions surrounding Laurence first marriage. Why won't anyone discuss the fait of his first wife? Who's buried in the unmarked grave in the forest? As the darkness of her husband's past emerges, Gwen is forced to make a devastating choice, one that could destroy their future and Gwen's chance at happiness.

My Thoughts

When I read the description of 'The Tea Planter's Wife', I knew I wanted to check it out. Dinah Jefferies description of a 1920's-1930's Ceylon is well written. Ceylon was surely a lush landscape where grapefruit and tea trees grew. Where people fished along the lake and easily swam to the island from shore.  As I sat on the porch and read this, I felt the heat and imagined a tropical breeze and the smell of cinnamon.

Gwen is newly married and has relocated from Gloucestershire to Ceylon. She is the naive wife of Laurence, a Tea Plantation owner. I expect many women adored him because of his good looks and wealth. But my only attraction to his character was that I learned he read Yeats.

Early on, we meet Savi. More than just a painter, and an acquaintance of Laurence, we learn he's a welcomed comforter.

Verity, Laurence's sister, is self-absorbed, unsympathetic and right-down wicked. For a while, I thought she had one redeeming quality. But, I learned differently, later in the story.

Christina, Laurence's American friend, was not likable. She happily irritates people and then easily explains things away.

In all honesty, some scenes I enjoyed and then others I wish I could flee from. My favorite scenes involved children. And while I was quite excited to learn about tea and cheese making, and sightsee with the characters, this story was difficult in that it occurred in a time period of oppression. 

This is most certainly a read I will remember. Overall, I found the story engrossing. It was an extremely emotional read. I think this is particularly due to the way Dinah Jefferies writes the interaction between her characters. 

In addition to financial losses and changes that are made at the plantation, reader's witness, talk of a flogging,  burning of a building, a battle of flowers,  and riots over languages. Not to mention...the devastating loss of lives. Sadly, this couple was really quite keen on keeping secrets which benefited them none. 

There is a section at the end of the paperback copy that Dinah tells about her research sitting along a lake at Ceylon Tea Trails- Castlereagh... pouring over history books from their library. 

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