Title: The Tea Gardens
Author: Fiona McIntosh
Published: October 30th 2017
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance
Spirited Doctor Isla Fenwick is determined to work at the coalface of medicine in India before committing to life as a dutiful wife. With hopes of making a difference in the world, she sails to Calcutta to set up a midwifery clinic. There she will be forced to question her beliefs, her professionalism and her romantic loyalties.
On a desperate rescue mission to save the one person who needs her the most, she travels into the foothills of the Himalayas to a tea plantation outside Darjeeling. At the roof of the world, where heaven and earth collide, Isla will be asked to pay the ultimate price for her passions.
Mrs R’s review:
I have been a long-time fan of Australian author Fiona McIntosh novels. Fiona’s 24th novel, The Tea Gardens, is her latest with the most breathtaking of covers. Taking place in 1933, the story begins in Britain and then moves on to India. While I am always fascinated by British history I have never really been interested in India, either it’s history or as a place to visit. While I still have no interest in visiting India, I loved every minute I spent there through the protagonist, Isla. Initially, I felt the book was quite slow at the beginning as Fiona described India in great, painstaking detail. The more I read though, the more I felt myself immerse in the Indian culture and way of life.
Isla is a feisty thirty something woman ahead of her time. A single woman, she has no interest in getting married. Isla’s passion is her career as a midwife and doctor, following in the footsteps of her deceased mother. While Isla is independent to a degree compared to other women of that time, her father still wants her to get married to fulfil a promise to his dead wife. Through Isla and her father, Fiona is able to throw a spotlight on the struggle of old traditions being strictly adhered to even though times are changing. When she discovers who her father wants her to marry and the conditions her soon to be husband sets, Isla realises she still has the opportunity to achieve her dreams that many women would have to give up. For seven months Isla has the chance to go to India to fight the disease that took her mother from her family. A man a little older and wiser than Isla, her betrothed insists that when she goes to India, Isla goes as a single woman. He too was ahead of his time but unwittingly sets Isla on course for meeting the love of her life. All I’ll say is what a slow burning, swooning love story it was!
With Isla’s circumstances, I too learnt about the Indian medical system, it’s history with Britain, the story of tea and most importantly, the caste system.
The caste system plays a vital role in The Tea Gardens because it is here the problem lies. Through Isla’s naivety, she tries to help a young couple in love from two different castes. Instead, Isla sets into play a devastating sequence of events that will have unknown consequences. It also leads to Isla growing and changing personally so much over the course of seven months that she became a better person.
At the end of the day, who will Isla choose? The man who let her go or the great love of her life?
The Tea Gardens by Fiona McIntosh was published on October 30th 2017 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Tea Gardens, Fiona McIntosh, visit here.