Tuesday 23 February 2016

Review : The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jefferies

Two newlyweds : practically strangers,
deeply in love,
and each hiding a secret from the other...

Published by : Penguin
3 September 2015
Copy : Paperback - reviewer purchased
The Blurb
Nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper steps off a steamship in Ceylon eager to begin her new life as a married women.  But the husband who greets her is distant, secretive and brooding.  Laurence is forever away working, leaving his young English bride to explore the vast tea plantation alone.  Wandering into forbidden places, Gwen finds locked doors, trunks filled with dusty dresses, a tiny overgrown grave - clues to a hidden, unspeakable past.
Gwen soon falls pregnant and her husband is overjoyed, but in the delivery room she is faced with a terrible choice - one she must hide from Laurence at all costs.  When the time comes to reveal the truth, how will he ever forgive what she has done? 
The Very Pink Notebook Review

The Tea Planter's Wife is the first of Dinah Jefferies books I have read and it will not be the last.  The opening chapter had me intrigued and from the very first page I found the writing so vivid with description I felt transported into the very room in which the scene was set.  This, I found, would continue throughout the entirety of the novel.

Set in Ceylon, we are given a beautiful array of colour and smells to indulge in and Jefferies research is second to none. Through elegant storytelling, the reader is swept back to the 1920's and placed inside the head of Gwendolyn, young, newly-wed and very much in love with both her husband, Lawrence, and the idea she has of being a perfect wife and mother.  Over the course of the novel, which stretches over nine years, we watch a na├»ve and innocent young soul turn into an adult, to the harsh realisation that life very rarely turns out the way we plan it.
Witness to much cultural unrest in Ceylon in general and within the tea business they own themselves, Gwen is stubbornly set against many of the attitudes she comes across.  She often takes a stand against the wishes of Nick McGregor, her husbands right hand man, when it comes to the labourers who work on the land.  These incidents, for me, seemed to be markers to indicate Gwen's growing confidence in herself and who she is within the house-hold. 
Although the setting and the tea plantation is important to the story, the juicy part of the plot is what happens within the house-hold.  What has gone on in the past - Lawrence's secret - and what goes on once Gwen herself arrives.  Secrets, deeply personal and tragic for both characters, lie bubbling underneath the surface and ultimately prove too big to keep hidden.  I was kept enthralled right up to the very last chapter as the discoveries were made, and deeply moved by how the plot unfolded.
Alongside the main story I enjoyed the sub-plots and colourful secondary characters.  I felt each one was well developed and necessary to help the character of Gwen blossom.  From the way cousin Fran helped you understand a little of Gwen's fun side, to the obnoxious nature of her sister in law, Verity, forcing Gwen to 'man up' and the flirty American Caroline who makes no secret of the fact she once believed she should have been the tea planters wife, I found them all quite fascinating.
All in all I love this novel.  Although the themes of the story are sad, the setting being so lush and vivid stops it being dark and depressing.  It moves along at a good pace and I found I did not want to put it down.  I didn't want to leave the colourful scenes and intriguing plot and characters (as such I read this book in two days).
Dinah Jefferies has skilfully created a wonderful work here and I whole heartedly recommend this book.  As such it receives five pink notebooks :


No comments:

Post a Comment