The Tea Planter’s Wife (NetGalley)
Sometimes you’re just ready for a book, you know? The past week has been gray and rainy; the temperatures are slowly dropping. In the morning there’s even a bit of fog. So turning to a book set in a place far away and a time long ago felt so right.
Only nineteen, the beautiful Gwen Hooper, travels alone to meet her husband Laurence in Ceylon. Theirs was a whirlwind romance after they met at a party in England, but home will be Laurence’s plantation off the coast of India. He’s the tea planter; she’s the wife. It’s 1925 and their life as colonials is one where races stay separate and each knows their place. The couple’s life is overshadowed by the death of Laurence’s first wife and her young son–and Laurence’s spoiled and meddling sister Verity.
But young love being what it is, Gwen and Laurence manage to find happiness until secrets threaten to destroy the life they’ve built. His secrets and hers. It’s an old story, with whispers of Rebecca and Jane Eyre, if only in mood–and two nights and a Saturday later, I put aside Dinah Jeffries’ The Tea Planter’s Wife with a tear or two.
And here’s what I’ll remember: that suspicions strip away tenderness and jealousy poisons; that secrets destroy love and shame eats away what little is left. I learned that the truth is a restorative and though scars may be very real, time will fade them.
Without a spoiler alert, I’m tongue-tied when it comes to the novel’s plot. Too much unraveling and it’s ruined. But I think it’s a sign of a good story that I was wrong about the Big Secret. Twice! The Tea Planter’s Wife is a satisfying read about a far off world with people very much like ourselves.