The story begins in the 1920s with 19 year old newlywed Gwendolyn Hooper traveling from England to Ceylon to join her thirtysomething husband Laurence at his tea plantation. Culture shock is her initial problem with the need to learn new words for workers such ayah and appu, get accustomed to the loud noise and fragrant smells of the country as well as the danger of the political strife between the Tamils and the Sinhalese. She also has to learn how to manage a household staff of employees who are much older than her. In addition, Gwen has to deal with the other women in Lawrence's life, his ex-mistress Christina, his sister Verity and his deceased first wife Caroline. None of this is easy for the teenager.
The Tea Planters Wife was a fast read. I loved the setting descriptions of Ceylon's topography, weather patterns, the smell of cinnamon in the air and life on a tea plantation. The fragrance of cinnamon captured my imagination as it is so different from Chicago where I live which smells like . . . something different. The only exception would be when the latrine coolie did not arrive on time. Ugh!
The characters were interesting. Gwen had nothing but adversity to deal with throughout the novel. Sister-in-law Verity is a pretty nasty person, Christina is still pushing Laurence to continue their relationship and Laurence is something else. I felt he totally ignored his wife's needs and put the needs of the other women in his life first as well as those of his employees. I would have dumped him.
All in all, I would give this novel 4 out of 5 stars.