The Sapphire Widow by #DinahJefferies #amreading #BookReview

Sappire

Of all the exotic Eastern settings in colonial times selected by Dinah Jefferies for her books, Ceylon in the 1930s is perhaps the most beautiful. Here we meet Louisa Reeve, living in a pleasant house with a handsome husband and her father living nearby. Having grown up on the island, she is happy to cycle round the 300 year old walled town of Galle, talking to the locals or to play with her three beautiful dogs but there is great sadness in her life; her daughter Julia was stillborn, and she has suffered two miscarriages. Husband, Elliot, is frequently away on business or out sailing and as a reader I instantly mistrusted him.  Soon tragedy strikes and we learn of Elliot’s treachery.  In contrast to the detailed description of the tropical landscape; the colourful hibiscus plants, the perfumed frangipani trees, the aroma of cinnamon bark, the cool waves of the Indian ocean, we also read of Louisa’s struggle to cope with suspicious men demanding money, an unkind mother-in-law and a revelation that causes her to doubt whether Elliot really loved her.

In order to survive, Louisa plans to open an emporium in an old print house and she approaches Leo McNairn, owner of a cinnamon plantation to offer a contract exporting his crop through her spice agency in Colombo.  She finds Leo, a strong but rather sad man, unsettling, and she feels sure he knew more about her husband’s past.  Circumstances throw them together, but an orphaned boy may separate them.

Many previous fans of Dinah Jefferies’ books seem disappointed by this novel, but I particularly enjoyed it, perhaps because I could identify with the lonely but independent, Louisa and the stories of other characters added interest and context to her tale.

The Sapphire Widow is available to purchase on Amazon UK

My review of The Missing Sister by Dinah Jefferies

Advertisements

The Missing Sister by Dinah Jefferies #BookReview

Missing

Belle Hatton has embarked upon an exciting new life far from home: a glamorous job as a nightclub singer in 1930s Burma, with a host of sophisticated new friends and admirers. But Belle is haunted by a mystery from the past – a 25 year old newspaper clipping found in her parents’ belongings after their death, saying that the Hattons were leaving Rangoon after the disappearance of their baby daughter, Elvira.

Belle is desperate to find out what happened to the sister she never knew she had – but when she starts asking questions, she is confronted with unsettling rumours, malicious gossip, and outright threats. Oliver, an attractive, easy-going American journalist, promises to help her, but an anonymous note tells her not to trust those closest to her. . .

Belle survives riots, intruders, and bomb attacks – but nothing will stop her in her mission to uncover the truth. Can she trust her growing feelings for Oliver? Is her sister really dead? And could there be a chance Belle might find her?

My Review

Belle is a brave, independent young woman, making her own way in the world, following her father’s death.  After a comfortable but not very happy childhood she is curious about the mother who left her and a sister she never knew.  Her story is told against the dangerous political undercurrent of colonial Burma in a pre-war world about to disappear.  While apparently protected by the British authorities, Belle has little sympathy for their autocratic attitudes and she is determined to discover the truth about her sister, even when it means taking a hazardous voyage up country, along the Irrawaddy river.

I knew very little about the history of Burma, now Myanmar, so I found the descriptions of the old mansions in Rangoon and the golden pagodas on the hills near Mandalay, fascinating.  Belle’s story is interwoven with that of Diana, her mother, in the 1920s, so we also try to solve the mystery of baby, Elvira. As we read of Diana’s gradual estrangement from her husband, the parallel tale of Belle and American journalist, Oliver, suggests a happier fate, but misunderstandings and a plot to silence Belle, could destroy any hope of a happy ending.

Once again, Miss Jefferies has written a compelling eastern tale of mystery and romance, which I highly recommend.

The Missing Sister can be found on Amazon UK

My review of The Separation by By Dinah Jefferies is here

Dark Clouds over Nuala by Harriet Steel #RBRT #bookreview

Dark Clouds

It was a pleasure to return to mid-1930s colonial Ceylon and reconnect with the courteous Inspector Shanti de Silva and his amenable English wife, Jane. A painstaking detective, De Silva manages to balance polite acquiescence to his pompous superior, government agent, Archie Clutterbuck, with a determined pursuit of justice.

We join society in Nuala at an exciting time, when a young couple from Australia are visiting Lady Caroline Petrie en route to claiming an inheritance. Ralph Wynne Talbot is the long-lost heir of the Earl of Axford. He is almost too charming and his wife Helen is stunning. Soon there is a tragic death, but is it murder or suicide? Meanwhile Sergeant Prasanna is distracted by the mistreatment of a young lady called Kuveni. She and her family have fled to Nuala from their village due to ill treatment by the headman whom she had refused to marry. This is outside De Silva’s remit but he will try to find a solution since the girl’s plight is so important to his young Sergeant.

The plot of this second volume is faster moving than the first and this time Shanti de Silva puts himself in considerable danger. Alongside the drama Jane manages social problems with great diplomacy and tact, giving us a window into colonial life in this era. This combination of social history, exciting crime solving and a delightful loving couple make Dark Clouds over Nuala a great pleasure to read. I am sure there will be more mysteries for Inspector de Silva to solve, but I also have a desire to read about how he met and wooed Jane when she was the governess to a colonial family.

You might also like to read my review of Trouble in Nuala Volume one of the Inspector de Silva mysteries.

You can purchase Dark Clouds over Nuala at Amazon

Rosie's Book Review team 1