The Tea Planter’s Wife is nineteen year old Gwendolyn Hopper. We meet her as she is about to arrive in 1920’s Ceylon to be reunited with her new husband Laurence. The pair met in London and he is older and a widower. Right from the first page the smells of Ceylon are described so well that you almost begin to hunger for cinnamon and coconut.
Gwen and Laurence seem be head-over-heels in love but there are tensions lurking in the background, for who wants to read a novel about perfect happiness. Mr McGregor (I’m afraid that in my mind he was always off trying to stop Peter Rabbit eating the cabbages) is the estate manager with what appears to be a heavy hand in managing the Tamil workforce. Glamourous and wealthy widow Christina Bradshaw seems to have a bit of thing with Laurence and seems unwilling to let him go. Savi is a handsome Sinhalese artist with a seemingly magnetic attraction to the colony’s younger ladies. Verity is Laurence’s younger and very possessive sister. All loom in on Gwen and seem to make life difficult for her. But our heroine is not without friends; Naveena is her lady’s maid who has been a loyal servant to the family for generations and Fran is Gwen’s cousin.
All seems to be going well as Gwen falls pregnant with what appears to be twins. What happens next forces heart-breaking choices and the beginnings of a secret. The keeping of that secret and the strains that it brings in turn causes an older secret to be revealed. Dinah Jefferies tells the tale expertly. Small clues and information are scattered at just the right moment and enough morsels of her thorough research are dropped in to make you feel that you’ve learnt something at the end.
Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
THE TEA PLANTER’S WIFE by DINAH JEFFERIES
Published by Penguin
Paperback £7.99, Kindle £4.31