Nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper is newly married to a rich and charming widower, eager to join him on his tea plantation, determined to be the perfect wife and mother.
But life in Ceylon is not what Gwen expected. The plantation workers are resentful, the neighbours treacherous. And there are clues to the past – a dusty trunk of dresses, an overgrown gravestone in the grounds – that her husband refuses to discuss.
Just as Gwen finds her feet, disaster strikes. She faces a terrible choice, hiding the truth from almost everyone, but a secret this big can’t stay buried forever . . .
An atmospheric story with strong characters, well researched historical detail and honest insight into the prejudices of the between-wars era.
Gwen is a naive, privileged young bride, with no idea what to expect from her new life. The story captures Gwen’s emotions perfectly. The reader follows her character development and increasing maturity, during her tempestuous marriage. Laurence, an attractive widower’s past life holds many secrets that can cause pain to his new bride. The most poignant scenes occur when Gwen becomes a mother. The choices she faces are terrible and life-changing.
There are mystery, romance and an interesting insight into life on a Ceylonese tea plantation. The historical details enhance and authenticate the story. The story has many strong female characters despite the prejudices of the time. ‘The Tea Planter’s Wife’ reflects the beginnings of female emancipation. It illustrates the courage and suffering of our female ancestors believably. The racial discrimination at the centre of colonialism is also highlighted and explored, as is the religious differences prevalent in Ceylon during the 1920’s and 1930s. Prejudice in both these forms force Gwen to make a tragic choice, which is pivotal to the story.
The plot is simple but effective and allows the dramatic, historical setting, powerful imagery and memorable characters to shine.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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