There aren’t a lot of books set in Sri Lanka, my motherland. So I was thrilled to read The Tea Planter’s Wife, a story set in the early 1900s when Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon. The protagonist of the story is Gwen, a nineteen-year-old white lady who joins her older, widowed husband, Laurence in Ceylon. Laurance is a wealthy tea planter, so Gwen’s new life is a comfortable one with natives as help to care for her every need. Yet, despite the comforts, something seems to be missing from their married life. Gwen feels Laurance has suddenly grown distant from her and with Verity, Laurance’s clingy sister living with them, Gwen’s status in the house is unclear.
At a New Year’s ball at the Grand in Nuwara, Christina, an American banker appears to be overly comfortable with Laurance. Is she Laurance’s mistress? Is that the secret Laurance has been hiding? Or is it just he feels haunted by his first wife’s death? While Gwen tries to find answers for Laurance’s change, Savi Ranasinghe, a dashing local artist is the only one who is sympathetic towards Gwen. And soon enough, Gwen is the one to end up with a big secret.
I sensed the twist in the story from very early on, and the modern reader will see through it too. However, The Tea Planter’s Wife is far from disappointing. It takes us to an era where there were strict racial divisions between the British colonists, the Sinhalese, and the Indian Tamils who were brought to work in the tea plantations. So it is not difficult to empathize with Gwen’s predicament, given the prejudices of the time.
Also, Dinah Jefferies is a skillful writer. Sri Lanka is a beautiful island, and she paints vibrant pictures of the country that mesmerized me and left me feeling nostalgic. It is always refreshing to read about wonderful places in one’s country as seen through a foreigner’s eyes. 🙂
I highly recommend this to anyone who is planning on visiting Sri Lanka. The story is enjoyable, and the descriptions of Sri Lanka will surely intoxicate you, so it is a fine teaser! I will leave you with few snaps of some of the places that appear in the book.