What’s it all about?:
Nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper is newly married to a rich and charming widower, eager to join him on his tea plantation, determined to be the perfect wife and mother. But life in Ceylon is not what Gwen expected. The plantation workers are resentful, the neighbours treacherous. And there are clues to the past – a dusty trunk of dresses, an overgrown gravestone in the grounds – that her husband refuses to discuss. Just as Gwen finds her feet, disaster strikes. She faces a terrible choice, hiding the truth from almost everyone, but a secret this big can’t stay buried forever . . .
What did WE think?:
CHRISSI: Did you have any preconceptions of this book going into reading it?
BETH: Not really, this is the first novel that I have read by Dinah Jefferies so I was excited to see what her work would be like. On reading the synopsis, I was intrigued enough to want to start the story and her writing was so beautiful that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres to read and I was hoping for a storyline rich in information about what life was like in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in the 1920’s and that is essentially what I got.
BETH: Whom was your favourite character in this novel and why?
CHRISSI: I really loved the character Navenna, who was the maid in the story. I know she’s not a main character, but she’s stayed with me. I loved her caring nature and how she would protect Gwen. I loved how the young Gwen had an ally in Navenna.
CHRISSI: Dinah Jefferies has created a great sense of time and place in this novel. Discuss how she has achieved this.
BETH: The author has definitely done her research for this novel, it shows in every moment when Ceylon is described, from the time when Gwendolyn first steps off the boat and the reader sees the new and foreign land through her eyes to later years when she is a bit older. Having slightly more experience with the land and the inhabitants of it gives her more confidence when she has to stand up for herself or make difficult decisions but she never loses her love or respect for it. As the reader, Gwen’s obvious feelings for the land where she becomes a woman is lovely to experience and, as a result, made me quite envious and curious to experience it myself. We not only see Gwen develop and grow as a person as the years go on, but we see the country change also which was very interesting to read about.
BETH: What did you make of the character of Laurence’s sister Verity?
CHRISSI: I initially felt very irritated by Verity. She seemed incredibly needy at the beginning and very reliant on her brother. She was quite a busy body really! I didn’t like the way she treated Gwen. As we delve deeper into Verity’s history, I started to feel a little bit of compassion for her. She really was a lonely lady.
CHRISSI: The keeping of secrets is a big part of this novel- discuss the decisions that the characters make and the affect these decisions have on their lives.
BETH: Ah yes. There are some BIG secrets in this novel but I’m very wary of spoilers so I’m going to try and be as vague as I can. Lets just say that Gwen is not the only person keeping secrets… and there are some whoppers of secrets kept by each individual. They are often kept as the person thinks that it is the best way to protect the other individual, however this may not necessarily be the case and it may in fact be more damaging. In one particular case, it may not affect one individual but a whole group of people and has the potential to be life-changing for all concerned.
BETH: There are quite a few surprises in this novel. Were you prepared for the events that unfolded?
CHRISSI: Definitely not. I thought I had this all sussed out. I remember thinking it was all a little bit predictable, but I have to hold my hands up and say that I was wrong! I love it when that happens. There were so many twists and turns along the way, which pleasantly surprised me. I was intrigued throughout and was wondering where the story was going to go next!
CHRISSI: How does this book compare to other love stories?
BETH: I was actually pleasantly surprised by the love story of Gwen and Laurence. I thought I had it all figured out and it was going to go the way of other stories I have read where a young woman goes to live with her older husband abroad but I was completely wrong. Gwen and Laurence have the kind of love that felt really authentic i.e. they have problems, they get annoyed with each other, they fight, they sulk then they make up! It was nice that they both had (normal) flaws in their characters and still loved each other enough that there was no real “baddie” in the relationship, despite the secrets that are kept.
BETH: Would you read another book by this author?
CHRISSI: I think I would! I really enjoyed this book, and I have to admit I wasn’t expecting to!
Would WE recommend it?:
BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Of course!
BETH’s star rating (out of 5):
CHRISSI’s star rating (out of 5):