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….
I can’t pretend I enjoyed this book – in fact I was relieved when it ended. I have, however, given it 4 stars rather than 3 because if this is your cup of tea (no pun intended) then you’ll no doubt adore it. For me it had nothing new to say. It’s just another sad story but with a cast of characters that drove me mental. It would probably make a good TV series with beautiful costumes and panoramic shots of the surrounding countryside. I’m afraid I found it flat and I didn’t feel any of the emotion until the very last part, which I can’t give away because of spoilers.
So many secrets that if someone had had the guts to reveal at some stage all the tragedy could have been avoided. But I guess that’s easy to say now as we live in a different age. It was an age where women had only just found their feet (and vote) but there was still so much they couldn’t do or say. Gwen’s opinions about the racism and treatment of the Sinhalese/Tamils were really just a puff in the wind. She never actually did anything, usually just made things worse in a frail attempt to ‘help’. I read this with Pigeonhole and most of my fellow readers enjoyed being transported to Ceylon (as it was in those days) and found it an emotional read. But for me it was too predictable.
I’m sure Dinah Jeffries is a fabulous author but I need something grittier to keep me interested. Many thanks to The Pigeonhole and my fellow Pigeons for keeping me reading.