Thursday 1 October 2015

The Tea Planter's Wife - Dinah Jefferies

Dinah Jefferies' unforgettable new novel, The Tea Planter's Wife is a haunting, tender portrait of a woman forced to choose between her duty as a wife and her instinct as a mother... 

Nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper steps off a steamer in Ceylon full of optimism, eager to join her new husband. But the man who greets her at the tea plantation is not the same one she fell in love with in London.

Distant and brooding, Laurence spends long days wrapped up in his work, leaving his young bride to explore the plantation alone. It's a place filled with clues to the past - locked doors, a yellowed wedding dress in a dusty trunk, an overgrown grave hidden in the grounds, far too small for an adult...

Gwen soon falls pregnant and her husband is overjoyed, but she has little time to celebrate. In the delivery room the new mother is faced with a terrible choice, one she knows no one in her upper class set will understand - least of all Laurence. Forced to bury a secret at the heart of her marriage, Gwen is more isolated than ever. When the time comes, how will her husband ever understand what she has done?

The Tea Planter's Wife is a story of guilt, betrayal and untold secrets vividly and entrancingly set in colonial era Ceylon.

What did I think?

This is an absolutely magnificent book that successfully manages to sweep the reader away to Ceylon, a most amazing trip from which I am yet to return.  It is Dinah Jefferies second novel and it is written so beautifully that I will be adding her first novel, The Separation, to my must read list.

From the prologue set in 1913 to the ending in 1934 the story weaved its intricate web around me and I didn't want to put the book down for a minute.  It's a family saga like no other, with shocking secrets that if only they had been revealed earlier could have avoided such terrible heartbreak.  I did have a tear in my eye towards the end, but don't mistake this for a weepy Mummy's book - it's quite unique and I'd struggle to slot it into just one genre.  It has all the ingredients for a perfect novel - mystery, intrigue, secrets and betrayal.

Gwen's story is one of a naive young lady travelling half way across the world to be with her new husband in Ceylon.  On the ship she meets dashing Savi Ravasinghe, an artist who makes several appearances in the story as all the ladies fall in love with him!  When Gwen falls pregnant and later gives birth I thought that the story could have quite easily taken a predictable turn but the web that Dinah Jefferies was weaving was not yet complete.  I felt so sorry for Gwen, she should have had a perfectly happy life but for deeply buried family secrets, not to mention a troublesome sister in law.

I'm not surprised to learn that this book has been chosen for Richard & Judy's autumn bookclub 2015.  It's an absolutely brilliant family saga and you can't wait to turn the page to see what secrets might be revealed next.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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