Secret Cultivation

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A young woman marries a wealthy, older man, moving to a new country far away from the world she’s known. With the added intrigue of cultural strain between the locals, Dinah Jefferies’ The Tea Planter’s Wife explores a woman’s transition into married life while learning about her new home and all the intricacies that come with it.

Having just married, Gwen leaves her native England for Ceylon to live with her husband, Laurence Hooper, on his tea plantation. Experiencing a new culture and all the nuances associated with it, and during a time of societal shifts seen in the 1920s no less, Gwen realizes she has much to learn, but so too does she have ideas that could benefit her husband’s business and the local workers. While settling in to her new life, Gwen tries to learn about the secrets Laurence is keeping about his late first wife, yet she struggles to keep a secret of her own from everyone.

While the writing overall was fairly good, particularly with setting description, I found that I didn’t particularly connect with any of the characters as they weren’t particularly interesting or developed. I did find it a bit annoying how Gwen would wind up either harping on or constantly rehashing the same idea (often fraught with her own guilt) as it felt too heavy-handed in laying out the important pieces of the story. There were many instances throughout this novel when I was reminded of Rebecca with the way in which Laurence’s deceased first wife played a rather large role in how Gwen and Laurence behaved toward one another.

Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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