Having read and really enjoyed Dinah Jefferies debut novel The Separation I was looking forward to seeing how her next book compared and I’m pleased to say, I was not disappointed.
Gwendolyn Hooper is the eponymous wife, who has just arrived in Ceylon to join her new husband, the rich and charming widower, Laurence. She is, perhaps a little naively, looking forward to transforming herself into the perfect wife and mother, but things don’t work out as she anticipated.
Gwendolyn finds herself isolated as Laurence alternates between between being loving and distant and refuses to discuss the circumstances surrounding his first wife’s death. On the plantation the workers are resentful,and her neighbours prove less than friendly. The situation worsens with the arrival of Laurence’s duplicitous sister Verity who comes live with them. Desperately trying to cope and finding a balance Gwendolyn then has her own secret to hide.
I enjoyed this book. I found Gwendolyn a sympathetic character, if sometimes a little too naive and trusting – I did occasionally want to shout at her, especially in her dealings with Verity and Laurence, but I suspect that might have more to do with my own impatient nature and less with her character! Though Verity and Laurence were both troubled characters, they did in the end elicit some sympathy once the full stories were revealed. The story is a cautionary tale of living your life with secret and lies and the misery that results, often unnecessarily. The story kept me gripped in wanting to discover the truth and hoping that things worked out well for Gwendolyn. It also engaged me with it’s background story, of the growing unrest in Ceylon related to the fight for independence. What Dinah Jefferies also managed to do, with this book (and the last) is give a really good sense of time and place that is very evocative.
This is a book that successfully blends of history, drama, deception and mystery and I have no difficulty in recommending it.
I received a review copy via NetGalley in return for an honest review.