After seeing the book surface in multiple review groups, I just had to read it.
From the book's description:
Dinah Jefferies' unforgettable new novel, The Tea Planter's Wife is a haunting, tender portrait of a woman forced to choose between her duty as a wife and her instinct as a mother... Nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper steps off a steamer in Ceylon full of optimism, eager to join her new husband. But the man who greets her at the tea plantation is not the same one she fell in love with in London. Distant and brooding, Laurence spends long days wrapped up in his work, leaving his young bride to explore the plantation alone. It's a place filled with clues to the past - locked doors, a yellowed wedding dress in a dusty trunk, an overgrown grave hidden in the grounds, far too small for an adult... Gwen soon falls pregnant and her husband is overjoyed, but she has little time to celebrate. In the delivery room the new mother is faced with a terrible choice, one she knows no one in her upper class set will understand - least of all Laurence. Forced to bury a secret at the heart of her marriage, Gwen is more isolated than ever. When the time comes, how will her husband ever understand what she has done? The Tea Planter's Wife is a story of guilt, betrayal and untold secrets vividly and entrancingly set in colonial era Ceylon.
I wasn't disappointed.
Although the book is written in third person, it's told from the perspective of Gwendolyn Hooper, the young woman on an adventure to be the wife of a wealthy tea planter in Ceylon. Gwen develops well into a very likable heroine. And through her interactions, the other characters in the cast are also well-developed.
The book is written in a style I would describe as hauntingly beautiful. Although there are happy moments, the tone is such that I constantly expected something difficult or bad to happen. The story isn't really a depressing one, though. And it is so well-written that, even overshadowed by this feeling or foreboding, the story is quite beautiful at times.
I was drawn into the story immediately, and this became one of those books I couldn't put down. There is an air of suspense that hovers around some of the characters, and I was constantly making predictions about what the mystery would turn out to be and then being inclined to read "just one more chapter" to see if my suspicions were correct.
My only complaint about the story at all is that has a rather precipitous ending. After a fairly lengthy story, multiple things seem to be resolved in a very quick manner in the last chapter or two. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the book up until this point, I found the ending rather abrupt, making the conclusion of a wonderful story a little bit choppy and less believable.
On a side note, I thoroughly enjoyed the historical setting of The Tea Planter's Wife. Set in Ceylon- now Sri Lanka- in the early 1900s when it was an English colony, it was a place and time I've not read very much about. It was also interesting to see how the American depression affected Gwen and her wealthy English husband in Ceylon- something I've also not read or thought much about.
Despite the ending, I give this one five stars. The rest of the story really was that good. This is not Christian fiction- as I often review- and there are a few scenes in the book. There isn't much detail given at all.
You can find The Tea Planter's Wife on Amazon here and read an excerpt of the Kindle book below.
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