Book review: The Tea Gardens

By Fiona McIntosh

Synopsis: 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. 

How did this book end up in my hands? I was browsing the BorrowBox app looking for my next audiobook and the title of this book caught my eye as I happened to have visited and loved some tea gardens in India.

Was it a page-turner? This novel is rich with descriptions but it is also quite eventful. I wouldn’t go as far as to define it a page-turner but it definitely kept my interest alive.

Having read the synopsis, did the book meet my expectations? Romance is not one of my go-to genres so I wasn’t sure what to expect. To be honest, when I started listening to the audiobook I was more looking forward to be immersed in an Indian setting than to find out about what happened to the characters. Not a reflection on the book, I am simply fascinated by India!

Did I like the ending? [no spoilers] In this novel, the prologue is the end of the book and everything between this and the epilogue constitutes a flashback. Based on this, I knew how the story ended from the very beginning so it didn’t come as a surprise. If we consider that the narrative takes place in the 1930s, the ending couldn’t have been any different. Did I like it though? I’m stuck in the middle. Yes, because it was credible. No, because I am more of a romantic perhaps.

Three words to describe it. Evocative. Entertaining. Thought-provoking.

Do I like the cover? Yes, although I would have preferred to see more of the landscape. Having the face of a woman on the cover meant that I didn’t have a chance to imagine myself how Isla would look.

Have I read any other books by the same author? No, but I think I will.

Will I be recommending this book? Yes, it’s a well-written book that manages to transport you to a different era and place with well-researched details and evocative descriptions that never feel cumbersome. The love story evolves in a somewhat predictable way but there are a few plot twists that keep things interesting too.

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