THE TEA PLANTER'S WIFE – Dinah Jefferies
Gwen Hooper is aboard a ship that has reached port in Ceylon. She will join her new husband, Lawrence. They were married in Gloucestershire, but Lawrence had to come back early to take care of some business. When the boat's horn sounds it startles her, and in her sudden movement her purse with all her money slips from her wrist and disappears under the water. A native man onboard, Savi Ravasinghe, sees what happened and helps her find shelter from the heat until her husband arrives. Lawrence is late but finally arrives. It is a new world for Gwen, and certain aspects of the people she meets, including her husband, give her pause and doubt. She loves Lawrence, but his behavior toward her is off putting.
In Ceylon, there are the white people of privilege and wealth, and the dark native people. Those of her own class are very judgmental, but Gwen has a willingness to help anyone who needs it. Besides her husband's disconcerting behavior, she also discovers secrets, including a small grave on her husband's property near her new house, and discrepancies in the house financial records. Meeting her new sister-in-law, Verity, is also strange. Gwen's cousin, Fran, visits from England. At a ball, Gwen discovers a blonde American all too interested in Lawrence, and she thinks it a mutual attraction. She drinks too much champagne, does the Charleston much to the disapproval of the older guests, and then steps out of the ballroom. Ravasinghe helps her to her bedroom where she passes out. When she wakes she finds herself partially disrobed. Gwen learns Fran is interested in Ravasinghe, whom Lawrence dislikes. A few months later she finds herself pregnant and gives birth to twins. She has a healthy white boy, but the girl is born dark. Since Lawrence is away, and although it breaks her heart, she has the little girl taken to a nearby village and given to a native woman to raise.
THE TEA PLANTER'S WIFE is full of secrets of various characters and the strangeness of a foreign land. With the crash of the stock market, the world will change. In Ceylon alliances and relationships will change. Great sadness and guilt will only be alleviated by the truth and forgiveness. Gwen and Lawrence must decide if they want to face their own problems together and remain in Ceylon through the obstacles Lawrence foresees. The historical viewpoint of the tea trade in Ceylon at the time seems very accurate, and author Dinah Jefferies's use of description and detail places the reader in the location. It is an unusual but intriguing trip to a little visited time.