Monday, June 4, 2018

The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jefferies

As part of my “falling further in love with all things tea” phase, I’ve decided to try and read tea-centered novels as well! My first read didn’t go so well so I decided to switch genres to historical fiction.

The Tea Planter’s Wife is set in 1920s Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon). Gwen, a young British girl, has arrived in Sri Lanka as the wife of the much older Lawrence. Her husband runs a tea plantation and as Gwen tries to get used to life in Sri Lanka and her over-bearing sister-in-law, she finds that there are a few more skeletons in the closet than she expected.

To be honest, I thought this was going to be a very gothic novel in terms of Lawrence’s character, but that turned out not to be the case. The book focuses more on Gwen’s struggle to adapt as the mistress of the house (not surprising since she’s only nineteen) and her insecurities in her relationship with Lawrence. And since she’s a generally likeable character, although she almost becomes a Mary Sue at times, so I was mostly rooting for her.

I really liked how the book brought in the historical tensions of that time. It was a time of unrest and there was a lot of racism and I’m glad that the author didn’t shield away or whitewash that aspect of history. Although it is a pity that none of the Sri Lankans (Sinhalese or Tamils) are given major roles - there is one character who’s quite important but he spends most of the book with his character thrown into doubt.

On the tea aspect, there wasn’t as much tea talk as I liked. One thing I enjoyed about Death by Darjeeling was that the love of tea shone through. Although the tea plantation is crucial to Gwen and Lawrence and she does see how tea is made, tea isn’t really a dominating presence in the book. It’s more of something in the background.

Overall, this was an interesting, if quiet, book. There aren’t many ‘action’ scenes even though there was a lot of tension throughout the book, but I thought the setting was well-written and the characters likeable.

1 comment :

  1. A Sri Lanka setting! That caught my attention. I haven't been drawn to the more quiet novels as of late, but I like them from time to time. I will have to keep this one in mind as I do enjoy historical fiction--and the Sri Lanka setting appeals to me. Thank you for bringing this one to my attention!


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