Be transported to a tea plantation in Ceylon (modern day Sri Lanka) with Dinah Jefferies’ stunningly evocative novel to transport you there via the sights, sounds and fragrant aromas of the time and place. It’s 1925, Gwen is 19 years old and has just stepped off a steamship in Ceylon ready to begin her new life as a married woman. Her husband works away a lot and so leaves her to explore her new home, a tea plantation, on her own. However all is not well in paradise. For behind the shiny facade of the plantation house, there is a world of resentment and discomfort among the workers. Gwen wanders into areas she really should not and what she finds there could risk everything she holds dear. When she falls pregnant, the world she now calls home could be the one place she needs to escape.
The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jeffries is out now (Penguin £7.99) and you can find more booktrails here.
Owlpen Manor near Uley, Gloucestershire
Gwen at 19 is newly married and travels to a new and distant land to live with husband Laurence. Coming from Owl Tree Manor in Gloucestershire she has been used to a privileged life in the quiet countryside and this is her first time abroad. How different is her life to become. Owl Tree Manor is inspired by Owlpen Manor near Uley.
The Galle Face Hotel, Colombo
When Gwen first arrives in Colombo, she stays at the sumptuous Galle Face Hotel, a gorgeous old fashioned colonial hotel in the city, the promise of a new beginning. There she meets the ravishing Savi Ravasinghe who will be an important figure in her life later on.
“Nothing had prepared her for the shock of Ceylon’s scorching heat, nor its clashing colours nor the contrast between the bright white light and the depth of the shade”
Gwen is full of youthful idealism but doesn’t expect a distant and brooding welcome from a tea plantation full of unrest.
“Beneath the seductive scene there was an undercurrent of something sour.”
Hooper's Tea Plantation
Hooper’s plantation may be fictional but is representative of the large tea plantations which existed at the time. On the Ceylon tea trails website you can visit a colonial house much like the one in the novel.
"The gardens are luscious surroundings with the aroma of tea in the air together with “the barrage of buzzing, whistling, and chirping that filled the air...”
Life in her new country does come with some good times however for there is music and dancing at a ball in Nuwara Eliya’s Grand Hotel. From the plantation you can see the hills of this place in the distance. The white women who lived in the towns and cities of Ceylon were privileged and from good backgrounds and so when they came to a country in poverty they were protected from the reality of life among the locals, the unrest, the poverty and the sheer day to day survival. Gwen however oversteps these boundaries and discovers more than she should.
Sri Lanka Today
Ceylon became Sri Lanka and even today is a gorgeous pearl of a country, relatively unspoiled and just as stunning. During the time of the novel (1925 - 1934) it was a country undergoing great change as it shred the last thread of its colonial attire and became a fully fledged independent country in 1948.
And finally the tea. No reading of the book would be complete without a brew of Ceylon’s finest. Read the novel, immerse yourself in the luscious locations and intriguing story and taste the tea that has been a symbol of this time and place for many many years.