I’m delighted to be the last stop today on the blog tour for Dinah Jefferies’ The Tea Planter’s Wife.
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.
Two days later Gwen woke early to sunlight streaming through her muslin curtains. She was looking forward to breakfasting with Laurence, and then being taken on the grand tour. She sat on the side of the bed and undid the plaits in her hair, then swivelled round to sink her feet into a sleek fur rug. She glanced down and wriggled her toes in its whiteness, wondering what animal it had belonged to. Out of bed, she slipped on a pale silk gown someone had draped over a nearby chair.
They’d arrived at the plantation in the hill country the night before, just as the sun went down. With a head aching from exhaustion, and dazzled by the violent reds and purples of the evening sky, Gwen had fallen into bed.
Now she marched across the wooden floorboards and went to the window to pull the curtains apart. She took a deep breath when she looked out on the first morning of her new world and,
blinking in the brightness, reeled at the barrage of buzzing, whistling and chirping that filled the air.
Below her, gentle flower-filled gardens sloped down to the lake in three terraces, with paths, steps and benches strategically placed between the three. The lake itself was the most gloriously
shining silver she’d ever seen. All memory of the previous day’s car journey, with its terrifying hairpin bends, deep ravines and nauseating bumps, was instantly washed away. Rising up behind the lake, and surrounding it, was a tapestry of green velvet, the tea bushes as symmetrical as if they’d been stitched in rows, where women tea pickers wore eye-catching
brightly coloured saris, and looked like tiny embroidered birds who had stopped to peck.
In my recent review I said:
The Tea Planter’s wife is evocative of a time gone by. As in Dinah’s debut, The Separation, her writing is beautiful and brings the settings and emotions to life. It transports you to the sights, sounds, touch and taste of 1920’s/30’s Ceylon.