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Book Review | The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies

I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts about historical fiction, The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies.

Paperback: 432 pages

Publisher: Penguin (3 Sept. 2015)
ISBN-10: 0241969557
ISBN-13: 978-0241969557

Source : Publisher

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?


I’ve enjoyed immersing myself in this very real world crafted by Dinah.

When Gwen first arrives at Hooper’s Plantation the island is still under British administration.  As the story progresses, we become aware of the dissent between not only the Sinhalese and Tamil people and the opposition to the British but the changes in the care towards the plantation workers too.  Gwen gets caught up in a couple of incidents that make her unpopular and is horrified at how the workers were treated in Laurence’s father’s day.  Although things have improved it is not enough and this is a time when the rumbles are just beginning.

The Great Depression has an affect on their lives too.  Gwen and Laurence have to visit NY and I loved comparing the pace and modern advances to that of the quality of life on the tea plantation.

Gwen is so naive and trusting.  19 years old when she leaves England she’s not had a lot of experience of the world and Ceylon is on another level altogether.  As a character she grows in strength as she learns to live with her choice.  In NY she makes a stand that makes Laurence and the widowed Christina view her in a different light. I think this epitomizes just how much she has grown into a woman who knows exactly what she wants and is not afraid to speak out.

Laurence was a bit of an enigma to me at first.  18 years older than Gwen he’s had much more experience of life and its hardships.  His mood swings and distance confused me after the heat of their intimacy.  One minute protective of Gwen and the next not available.  At times masterful and at others weak and ineffective.  His secrets aren’t as easy to come to the surface as Gwen’s are! His character grew on me.  So very well matched with Gwen, theirs is a relationship of passion and connection.

It was obvious what Laurence’s sister Verity had on her agenda from the very beginning.  She is the character we all love to hate.  My feelings didn’t change towards her …

The secret … I knew the answer straight away so some parts of this didn’t hold the same amount of interest for me.  However the loss and pain felt very real and this did affect me on an emotional level.

There is one thing I had to do once I finished – go back and read the prologue.  I thought it was poignant the first time around but there’s another level added once you know more.

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.

Connect with Dinah

Twitter: @DinahJefferies 


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