The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was something very different from my usual read but I thought the description sounded good and it has some great reviews so decided to give it a try. Unfortunately it kind of reminded me why I don’t tend to read this type of book. I just couldn’t connect with the characters.
The story begins with 19 year old Gwen arriving alone in Ceylon to meet the man she recently married, Laurence. Laurence owns a tea plantation in Ceylon and, while overwhelmed by the change in her life, Gwen is very much in love with him and can’t wait to join him.
When he meets her in Colombo it seems all is well but as soon as they reach the plantation things change. Laurence becomes distant and is keeping secrets from her, there is unrest amongst the workers and Gwen is struggling to find her place and role. She begins to feel very much alone with no one to trust or confide in. When things finally start to improve Gwen is forced to make a terrible choice between her husband and her child but can she live with her choice.
Essentially it’s a story about secrets and lies and the damage they can do to a person and a relationship. Almost everyone in the book seems to be keeping some secret from everyone else and there are some complex moral dilemmas. It’s an interesting story that does keep you reading in the hope that you can get to the truth.
While the plot is interesting I found the pacing of the story a little bit slow. However, for me, the biggest problem in the book was Gwen. I’m afraid I couldn’t relate to her and I don’t think I even particularly liked her. At the start of the book she came across as very brave, marrying a man much older than herself and travelling from England to Ceylon alone to be with him. As the story went on though I started to feel she was quite naive and gullible and generally quite weak which I found frustrating. I wanted to shake her and tell her to get a grip, stop trusting everyone (particularly those who clearly have it in for you) and stand up for yourself. Most of my sympathy was with her husband and the others in the household rather than with Gwen and as a result I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I could have.
There are some great descriptions of Ceylon and life on a tea plantation at that time which I found fascinating but I think I just find the differences in attitudes and behaviour difficult to relate to. I’m not sure how keen I’ll be to read any more historical fiction for that reason.
Overall, I’d rate it as OK. I think those who love period family sagas will love it but unfortunately I’m not one of those people.
Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a free advance copy in exchange for an honest review. It will be on general release on 3rd of September for those interested.