The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies

I received a generous book token for my birthday, so I was able to indulge myself and buy some books that I had heard about. The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies was one of them. It is a mystery and a love story and a beautifully written book. I was entranced by it.

dinah-jefferiesDinah Jefferies was born in Malaya in 1948 and moved to the UK in 1956 at age eight after the country became independent.The author studied at Birmingham College of Art  and later at the University of Ulster, and graduated in English Literature. While in college she became pregnant with her first child, her son Jamie. Jefferies did not remain with Jamie’s father and later went on to marry Jon Owen, with whom she had one daughter, and the family moved into a musicians’ commune. After separating with Owen she began teaching at Dartington School Hall. She later met Richard Jefferies and the two married in 1998. When her son Jamie was fourteen he was killed in an accident at school and the experience formed part of the inspiration for her 2013 work The SeparationThe Tea Planter’s Wife was set in Ceylon and was a choice for the Richard and Judy Bookclub and was in the Sunday Times best sellers list for 16 weeks continuously from September until Christmas 2015, topping it twice during that time.

The author is a talent to watch in this genre. I did enjoy this book so much. It is an historic story and the writing is faultless. The story builds slowly as it draws the reader in. What a beautiful heartbreaking story it was.

The Tea Planter’s Wife is so much more than a conventional love story, with all its twists and turns and guilt and betrayal. It is a deeply impressive novel. The fetid, steamy tea-planters-wife-bookatmosphere of the tropics rises from these pages like a humid mist. The story unfolds on a tea plantation in 1920s Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) where 19 year old Gwendolyn Hooper is the new bride of the owner, an older, wealthy and charming widower. She is 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.

However, her romantic dreams of marriage are overshadowed by echoes from the past when she finds an old trunk of musty dresses; an overgrown and neglected gravestone in the grounds: her new husband refuses to talk about them.Just as Gwendoline finds her feet, disaster strikes. She faces a terrible choice, hiding the truth from almost everyone, but a secret this big cannot stay buried forever. Gwen’s perfect man is becoming a perfect stranger.

The Tea Planter’s Wife is a beautiful story: an exquiste novel.

Valerie Penny



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