Author: Dinah Jeffries
Type of book: Ceylon, England, America, tea plantation, 1913, 1925-1934, secrets, Sinhalese, Tamil, workers, wills, first marriages, Great Depression, childhood, manipulation, blackmail
Year it was published: 2015
In this lush, sexy, atmospheric page-turner, a young Englishwoman, 19-year-old Gwendolyn, marries a rich and seductively mysterious widower, Laurence Hooper, after a whirlwind romance in London. When she joins him at his Ceylon tea plantation, she's certain she'll be the perfect wife and, someday, mother. 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 Singhalese man of questionable intentions and worries about the propriety of her husband's connection to an American widow. But most troubling are the terrible secrets in Laurence's past that soon come to light and force Gwen to make a devastating choice. What happened to his first wife? And will the darkness of his past destroy their marriage and Gwen's chance at happiness? Set in rich and exotic 1920s Ceylon, The Tea Planter's Wife is an utterly engrossing, compulsive page-turner that climaxes with more than one heartbreaking twist.
There are quite a few main characters: one is Gwen, a young woman from England who came to settle down in Ceylon. She definitely has a big heart and often tries to see people as people rather than as skin colors. She is very emotional, a little bit unstable and naive. Her husband, Laurence, is older than she by more than ten years. He has previously been married but has secrets of his own that he refuses to share with Gwen. There is also Verity, Laurence's sister who seems only to live to mess things up for Gwen and Laurence. I'll be honest in saying I never liked Verity. Savi Ravasinghee is a talented artist of Ceylonese ancestry who may or may not have done the unthinkable.
Secrets will never be hidden forever
The story is in third person narrative completely from Gwen's point of view. (I should note that Gwen's name is Gwendolyn, a character known as the good witch from the Wizard of Oz.) and right away it starts in 1913 with a mysterious woman taking up the baby and walking away from the house. Then the story picks up twelve years later with Gwen's arrival to Ceylon and focuses on how she establishes herself as mistress of plantation and the burdens and secrets she carries after her children are born. The story and the plot are strong and move the reader along. It's a book of balance where all parts work together to make a great whole.
(From book jacket)
Dinah Jeffries lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and Norfolk terrier. The Tea Planter's Wife spent sixteen weeks on bestseller lists in the UK. It has been published in nineteen countries worldwide.
I love reading books that take place in locales that are not as well known as the typical Europe/North America, and if there is history in the story, well it makes the story very compelling for me. Normally as well, whenever I read a book, I can instantly find comparisons to previous books I've read, but this is the first time I'm feeling stumped as to what book, if any, reminds me of The Tea Planter's Wife? In truth, it's a unique book, and there isn't a book that reminds me of it. The story has equal amounts of tension and realism weaved into the pages, and it seems as if the author has found a perfect balance between details and character development. The characters are very memorable, and it's definitely a unique spin on what happens when a dark skinned child is born to white parents? (Although I hadn't reviewed it, at one point I recall reading The Sacrifice of Tamar by Naomi Ragen and it dealt a little bit with a similar issue.)
This is for Blogging for Books
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)