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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Tea Planter's Wife

Gwen, a young, somewhat innocent English girl marries and older tea plantation owner and moves with him to Ceylon in 1925. He is a widower, whose wife died twelve years earlier though he does not share the circumstances under which she died. Life in Ceylon is exotic, mysterious, somewhat lonely and the relationships among the British, their workers and house servants is a bit confusing. But Gwen is madly in love with her husband, who now, in this new environment has become somewhat distant. Gwen, upon her arrival in Ceylon met a local artist, a Sinhalese, who seems charming, helpful and friendly but she soon becomes aware of her husband's intense dislike of the man, despite Laurence's unwillingness to clarify the source of his animosity. In addition to this tension, Gwen must overcome her suspicions of an affair between Laurence and an American beauty, Caroline, who makes no effort to hide her attraction to him. He in turn, though denying the relationship, seems to revel in the flirtation and attention. Add to this situation, the live-in presence of Laurence's younger sister, Verity, who considers herself mistress of the plantation and the manager of the estate, a gruff Scot named McGregor who thwarts Gwen at every turn as she attempts to show compassion and caring to the workers in the fields and the tension and anger builds. When Gwen becomes pregnant she is, at last, hopeful of changes in the situation. She has found a hidden grave of a young child and Laurence has opened up about his first marriage a bit. He has become more attentive. The house servants, especially the housekeeper, have become more cooperative and Gwen has become a little part of the British community. Her cousin has come for a visit, though she has returned to England and Laurence is determined that it is Verity who will be Gwen's companion and aide during her pregnancy and after the babies, she seems to be carrying twins, are born. So though some of the stress and tension has subsided, Verity continues to be a thorn in the side. Once the children are born, however, the situation only grows grimmer and Gwen is left to wonder if her marriage can be saved and if, indeed, Ceylon will remain her home. Though the story plot lines are intriguing and the stress and tension builds and the mysteries continue almost to the very end, the repetition of strife between the characters and the burden of the secrets they each conceal at times becomes as suffocating and irritating as the heat, humidity and rain of the weather and the incessant buzzing of the flying insects. Even the constant reminder of the beauty of the sunsets and the lake does little to move the story and at times it just plods along--to the point that I read ahead to find out how the whole thing ends--I became so impatient. I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in return for a review.

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