This newer novel, already an international bestseller after its initial U.K. publishing, is set during the 1920s-30s in Ceylon, an island off of India that was colonized by Britain until 1972 and is now known as Sri Lanka.
Like in Rebecca, the husband is a widower, and the story of the dead wife is shrouded in mystery. The likeable new wife is trying to figure out how to run her new household (this one obviously on a tea plantation) while also wondering what exactly happened to the first wife.
But then…the plot took a very interesting turn and definitely stopped reminding me of Rebecca.
The Tea Planter’s Wife revolves around family secrets. I won’t get into specifics here because that would spoil the plot’s clever predicament. It reads as a well-written, mostly believable soap opera. Issues of race and class are prominent as are to be expected in this colonized setting.
There was a moment near the end when a native woman – during a riot about which language the country will use after independence – puts the “Tea Planters Wife” in her place: “Someone like you who has never had to fight for anything can have no idea.”
At this moment I was with the native. And I still am. But, the author is to be applauded for writing the privileged heroine into such a challenging situation that I did see her as fighting too, in a different way.
The text is certainly efficient and laudable storytelling. Yet it reads as a story I felt somewhat removed from; I felt sadness for the people and situations, but not in a deeply emotional way. Perhaps this goes back to my “mostly believable soap opera” characterization.
The positive side of my emotional detachment is that it was a “lighter” read for me. This is sometimes welcome after the deep soul searching required by some of my other recent reads.
Overall, I enthusiastically recommend this novel as a thoroughly entertaining read. Please, check it out and enjoy!
I was provided a complimentary download of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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