Published 3 September 2015 by Penguin
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 . . .
I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for this book, which starts on 7 September. My spot will be on the 10 September so do check back then. In the meantime, my review is below.
When 19 year old newly wed Gwendolyn arrives in 1920’s Ceylon to join her much older husband Laurence, the owner of a tea plantation, she is excited and looking forward to her new life. However, the reality is far from what she expected. Laurence seems to have changed towards her, he is no longer as loving and seems to be withdrawing from her; her youth and inexperience make her ill equipped to cope with him and the household responsibilities she is now expected to take on. She is unaccustomed to the people and their cultures and her natural sense of fairness brings her into conflict with others. The arrival of Laurence’s spoilt and spiteful sister, Verity, does not help matters and Gwen’s feelings of isolation are keenly felt.
This was such an evocative and atmospheric novel that I was captivated from the beginning and it really was a book that I didn’t want to put down. The Ceylon landscape, the hustle and bustle of the city, its colours and its people are all vividly described and I really felt as if I were there, watching the story unfold. The different cultures and resentments, the political unrest, the racial prejudices – these all add an element of unease and danger to the story.
This is a beautifully written drama of jealousy, deception, devastating decisions and guilt that will impact on the lives of Gwen and Laurence and others around them, some parts were just heartbreaking. All the characters were so expertly drawn, especially Gwen, who had to quickly mature and find an inner strength. Other characters that stood out for me, were the mysterious but charming artist Savi Ravasinghe, the brash American banker Christina, and Verity – Laurence’s sister who refuses to relinquish her hold on her brother. I’m deliberately trying not to give away much of the story as it really is one that you need to read and enjoy for yourselves.
I really enjoyed Dinah’s debut novel last year, ‘The Separation’ (reviewed here). I was very much looking forward to The Tea Planter’s Wife, and I wasn’t disappointed. When I finished the book, I had a distinct feeling of loss, which is quite unusual for me – I had been so caught up with the lives of these characters. I absolutely loved it and am certain it will be one of my top books of this year.
My thanks to the publisher, Penguin, for the paperback copy to review.
About the author:
Dinah Jefferies was born in Malaysia and moved to England at the age of nine. She has worked in education, lived in a commune and exhibited work as an artist. Dinah’s first novel,The Separation, was published by Viking in 2013; The Tea Planter’s Wife is her second novel. She is a contributor to the Guardian and other newspapers and lives in Gloucestershire with her husband
How to find out more: