Friday, June 29, 2018

Tea Lovers' Book Club: "The Tea Planter's Wife" by Dinah Jefferies

Summary: In 1925, Englishwoman Gwendolyn Hooper has just married a young widower and tea plantation owner, Laurence Hooper, and she travels to her new home in Ceylon, where she quickly learns that perhaps she doesn't know her new husband as well as she thought she did.

My thoughts: Wow, have my emotions gone through the wringer! At first, this book reminded me of a much older book, Invitation to Tea by Monica Lang, another tale that features the travails of young newlyweds making their life on the tea plantation. But almost immediately, this story injected several mysteries into the mix, and I was so intrigued that I could hardly put it down. I wish I could assume all of you had read this book because I would love to discuss it, but the main things worth discussing are all spoilers! So, I'll just say that I thought the author did a fantastic job of creating a vivid portrait of a young woman who struggles with being both a new wife and then, soon enough, a new mother. The issue of racial tensions on the tea plantation came into play as well, and with today's immigration debate, I thought this book would make a great jumping-off point for discussions about how we view those considered "foreign." There is much, much to chew on here, and the book also had some great villains! (Villainesses, actually.)

The judgment: This is one of those books that really moved in with me, and I found myself tearing up at the end, especially when I saw some unexpected emotion from a particularly hard-hearted character in his great moment of redemption. This would make a terrific epic film if Hollywood could manage not to bungle it up!

For discussion:

• When I read about the processing machinery at the tea plantation, I couldn't help recalling my tour of the Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina and the machinery there. Did anybody else have that reaction?

• Laurence Hooper seemed to have a detached approach to the workers on his tea plantation and lets Nick McGregor manage them. Did Laurence turn a blind eye to too many things?

• And the most interesting question of all: Was Gwen a good mother?

If you're in a (non-virtual) book club and haven't read this book yet, I think The Tea Planter's Wife would make a wonderful selection!

Next Month's Book: I'm taking a chance here and choosing a book based only on its cover, The Canterbury Sisters by Kim Wright!


  1. I haven't read this month's book yet, but now I want to read it! And I love the cover of next month's, too. Maybe I can actually read it during the month of July.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much! I did check it out from the library and read a few chapters, but then decided I didn't much like the writing style. I was in the middle of a couple of other books, and decided to concentrate on them and give up on the tea planter's wife. I have to admit that I'm more of a 19th century literature person, and don't generally care for modern-day novels (with a few cozy mystery exceptions). --from Vernona in DC

  3. Angela, if I ever make it to Charleston I will, of course, visit the tea plantation. In the meantime, I'll take your recommendation and check out this book.


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