Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)
Now that Downton Abbey is over, I have to look elsewhere for my Roaring Twenties fix. The Tea Planter’s Wife fulfills both that yen and my interest in all things Indian and subcontinental.
The setting is Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka) in the 1920s and 1930s. Gwen Hooper has just come from England as a new bride to join her husband on his expansive tea plantation. I don’t think I have ever read another novel set in Sri Lanka, so I was as fascinated as Gwen to learn about the economy, customs, and flora and fauna of the country.
The plot turns on the things Gwen doesn’t know: why her husband’s first wife committed suicide, what her sister-in-law is hiding, and just what happened to her the night of a fancy-dress ball. It is a simple setup, and the twist is not very twisty–if you have read Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca, you are already most of the way there. But Gwen and her husband are both very sympathetic characters, and I found myself really caring about their trials and wishing them the best of resolutions. The secondary characters are also intriguing, if not drawn as finely as they might be.
The Tea Planter’s Wife beautifully balances exotic escapism and a compelling family story. Enjoy it on a rainy day with a cup of Ceylon tea!
Available through the BRIDGES Library System