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The Tea Planter’s Wife, by Dinah Jefferies.

August 28, 2016

The Tea Planter’s Wife, by Dinah Jefferies.  Crown (2016), 432 pages.

3 stars

A novel about a young English woman who goes to Ceylon in the early twentieth century as the bride of the owner of a massive tea plantation and becomes overwhelmed by the country and her own sense of guilt.

Dinah Jefferies was born in Malaysia to British parents who returned to England with her when she was child and the country became independent.  She is now a novelist and short-story writer who lives in England and often writes about Southeast Asia.  This is her second novel.

At the center of The Tea Planter’s Wife is Gwen, a young English woman who meets and falls in love with the attractive owner of a tea plantation on his brief visit to England.  They marry, but when she arrives in Ceylon, Gwen finds much that is puzzling and even threatening.  At times her husband is as passionate and loving as ever, but at other times he retreats.  After their son is born, she lives in a haze of guilt while trying to keep a dangerous secret.

The book depicts a small group of the European plantation-owning class with natives of Ceylon pushed to the edges.  Race matters, but the viewpoint is that of the elite.  The plot is unique and interesting, but I found the characters to be somewhat shallow and hard to like, especially in the first half of the book.  The villains are all too obvious. While sexuality is not overly explicit, its descriptions get rather repetitive.  Yet as the novel progresses its main characters face their situation with grace.

Readers wanting an enjoyable, casual novel will probably like it better than I did.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 29, 2016 4:36 am

    I’ve seen this in multiple places and thought I might enjoy the setting but not going to read this now having heard your thoughts

    • August 29, 2016 10:58 am

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, the setting is impressive and well described, but I suspect you would be troubled by some of what I found troubling.

      I do appreciate your comments on my reviews. I like knowing someone shares my interests and values. I apologize for not replying more regularly, but that is how my life goes these days.

      • August 31, 2016 12:23 pm

        No apology needed at all – honestly its so hard to keep up!

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