Dinah Jefferies brilliantly captures the essence of love in her novel, The Tea Planter’s Wife.
Young, naïve, and completely besotted by her husband, Laurence, Gwendolyn Hooper arrives in Ceylon to begin her new life as a tea planter’s wife. Gwendolyn’s youth and excitable manner is quickly diminished when she is greeted with an unfamiliar culture, a withdrawn husband and a whole array of family secrets – all of which sets the stage for the ultimate test of the Hooper matrimony.
This is the first Jefferies novel I have read, and will definitely be picking up another one. The book is an easy read on one hand, yet on the other Jefferies can with ease deliver a devastating blow for the reader through plot twists and unsurprising character developments. Every character has been crafted to allow for the potential for the unexpected, in terms of their views, personalities, or behaviour, which is what, drives the novel into being such an absorbing read.
Referring to back to the opening statement, the novel is an exploration of love, what it means to be loved, or to love in varying forms, all of this I appreciate might sound like another one of those incredibly dull love stories, yet it really is not. However, you will have to trust me on this one, as if I begin to highlight what makes this novel different to other romance novels, I am afraid I might end up revealing maybe a little too much of Jefferies’ novel.
Gwendolyn, although she may not see herself as one, is the heroine of the book. What is refreshing about Jefferies’ portrayal of Gwendolyn is that she is incredibly flawed and human. It is her battle against her alien environment which highlights her heroic determination, yet this is counteracted by her frequent tendency to become emotionally crippled, weak and dependent. However, due to the circumstances she finds herself in, Jefferies crafts these moments as times when it is perfectly fine to falter and crumble, enlightening how remaining heroic goes against human nature.
I do have a little issue with the book, and that is with the structure of the novel. The book itself is split into four parts, with each part titled. It is these titles which spoil certain elements of the novel, my belief is that they act as a foreshadowing device, but they do this a little too well and actually spoil upcoming twists. Some of the plot is predictable and some twists can be underwhelming, yet when Jefferies gets it right with her twists it is devastating – in a good way, of course!
The characters are what carries the novel forward, and if you enjoy being left bewildered by plot twists do not expect the novel to always deliver these to their full potential.
The Tea Planter’s Wife can be purchased at all major booksellers, and other novels include The Separation and the newly released The Silk Merchant’s Daughter.