Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-07-18
- Reviewer: Staff
In her U.S. debut, Jefferies (The Separation), who was born in Malaysia and lives in England, delivers an engrossing tale of mystery, manners, and prejudice set against the backdrop of Ceylon (current-day Sri Lanka). Arriving from England by ship not long after the sinking of the Titanic, Gwen, the 19-year-old bride of Laurence Hooper, heir to a massive tea plantation, senses tension on every side when she comes to the serene but secluded plantation. Who is this widowed man she has married, and what is he hiding from his past? And why does everyone—Laurence’s sister, the plantation manager, and Laurence himself—want Gwen to keep her distance from the affairs of the native workers? As Laurence becomes involved with a mysterious businesswoman and Gwen spends her time with a local Sinhalese man, the past begins to spill into the present at the scenic plantation. Though the writing is at times cluttered and needlessly verbose, Jefferies shows that she can weave a suspenseful tale in which characters’ complex motivations converge in surprising ways—where compromise can turn out to have been cruelty, and where the aspiration to love overcomes prejudice and tradition. While characters aside from Gwen and Laurence never feel fully fleshed out, Jefferies makes up for this defect by offering suspense and pathos, and by resisting the temptation to gloss over true heartbreak and regret. Agent: Caroline Hardman, Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency. (Sept.)