From the blurb:
Nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper is newly married to a rich and charming widower, eager to join him on his tea plantation, 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. And there are clues to the past – a dusty trunk of dresses, an overgrown gravestone in the grounds – that her husband refuses to discuss. Just as Gwen finds her feet, disaster strikes. She faces a terrible choice, hiding the truth from almost everyone, but a secret this big can’t stay buried forever…
As I sit down to write this review, just minutes after finishing The Tea Planter’s Wife, I find myself struggling to hold back my emotions – that is how powerful this book is.
I read the book over three days, reading while the kettle boiled, reading when the clock was showing far too late an hour: I was utterly gripped. The story is so well executed, with plenty of pace to keep you turning the pages and so much suspense – I just had to know the truth! The author drip-feeds information expertly, and weaves in so many little clues that you can’t fail to be hooked. Around halfway through the story I was deeply worried as to how dark the ending may be, but when I got there… I was so glad I had kept reading.
As the blurb suggests, a terrible secret lies at the bottom of this book, and I don’t want to spoil that, so I won’t discuss the plot, other than to say that the core theme it is designed to explore is so important and moving, and the author deserves much credit for navigating this difficult, emotive territory.
The setting of the book alone makes this a fantastic read. So evocative and wonderfully described; I felt I was transported back in time to the 1920s and 1930s and right there in Ceylon. The characters belong in this place; they really live and breathe there. I was so engaged with them, especially Gwen and her new husband, Laurence; I feel I will miss them now I have finished.
There is so much emotion in the writing, so much poignancy, and the style is just beautiful – sweeping descriptions that made me want to be right there, in the scene, and dialogue that brought the book to life so well the story played like a movie in mind.
In all, I can’t recommend this book highly enough to readers who enjoy well-researched and well-written historical fiction that stays with you long after you close the book. This is a novel to buy, read and put on the shelf so that one day you can read it all over again.