Nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper steps off a steamer in Ceylon full of optimism, eager to join her new husband. But the man who greets her at the tea plantation is not the same one she fell in love with in London.
Distant and brooding, Laurence spends long days wrapped up in his work, leaving his young bride to explore the plantation alone. It’s a place filled with clues to the past – locked doors, a yellowed wedding dress in a dusty trunk, an overgrown grave hidden in the grounds, far too small for an adult…
Gwen soon falls pregnant and her husband is overjoyed, but she has little time to celebrate. In the delivery room the new mother is faced with a terrible choice, one she knows no one in her upper class set will understand – least of all Laurence. Forced to bury a secret at the heart of her marriage, Gwen is more isolated than ever. When the time comes, how will her husband ever understand what she has done?
Having not read any Dinah Jefferies before I was initially attracted to this book by its cover as I’m not usually drawn to books with titles about somebody’s wife, mother, daughter etc as they suggest to me that they don’t have their own identity. However, with this book I liked that Gwen didn’t fit into the stereotypical colonial wife that you’d expect. I liked that she eventually came into her own and had a bit of something about her.
From the outset it’s a very evocative, expressive and suggestive novel which portrays Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) as a beautiful yet very hot country but not without its social issues. The book is full of secrets and deception and feels very of its time with what reads as a credible depiction of colonial life.
I had an inkling of what was transpiring with certain characters but I didn’t really take to Lawrence or his smothering relationship with his sister. Verity is one of the most spoilt, clingy characters I’ve come across.
Overall, it’s a satisfying read, although a little slow in places but fans of historical dramas will love.
Many thanks to the publisher for approving me for a copy via Netgalley.
Connect with the author Dinah Jefferies