The Tea Planter’s Wife (★★★☆☆)

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Dinah Jefferies   *   Crown   *   September 13, 2016   *   432 Pages

Advanced Reader Copy provided through Amazon Vine and Net Galley.

Gwen Hooper has just traveled a long, long way to live with her new husband, Laurence, on his tea planation in Ceylon (that’s Sri Lanka, btw). At only 19 years old, she is head-over-heels in love and completely optimistic about her future. It doesn’t take long, however, for her to realize that life on a planation won’t be as easy and romantic as she was expecting. Not only are the plantation workers unhappy about being treated like slaves (go figure), but Laurence is attempting to push them (and himself) even further, by entering into a potentially lucrative business-boosting arrangement with an American businesswoman (who Gwen doesn’t like or trust).

Gwen’s personal life doesn’t offer much respite either. Laurence’s sister is both strange and vindictive, and getting along with her is taxing. Plus, the longer Gwen lives in her husband’s home, the more she feels like there’s something about his past (specifically about his first marriage) that he doesn’t want her to know–and no one is willing to tell her. Unfortunately for Gwen, it doesn’t take much time for her to accumulate some pretty major secrets of her own. And when those secrets are finally revealed, everyone’s lives are changed forever.

I have a feeling this is going to be one of those wildly popular Book Club books, like The Nightingale. It’s a completely mild story starring an uncomplicated protagonist who takes a stand against an only moderately controversial–but never truly offensive–issue. There is nothing surprising about this book. It is somewhat engaging, yes, but also predictable and superficial and, above all, safe. Even the scenes that I knew were supposed to be poignant and heartbreaking didn’t make me feel anything. I don’t know. I just never connected.

So even though this book is going to get a lot of play (almost 4,000 reviews on Goodreads!) and a lot of praise (an average rating of 3.7 stars!), I’m still going to say it may not be worth the effort. To not feel much of anything after reading 400 pages feels like a cardinal sin. Let me love you or hate you, but please don’t leave me with meh.

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