Lush, green, fragrant: the Indian hills of Assam are full of promise. But eighteen-year-old Clarissa Belhaven is full of worry. The family tea plantation is suffering, and so is her father, still grieving over the untimely death of his wife, while Clarissa's fragile sister, Olive, needs love and resourceful care.
Beautiful and headstrong, Clarissa soon attracts the attention of young, brash Wesley Robson, a rival tea planter. Yet before his intentions become fully clear, tragedy befalls the Belhavens and the sisters are wrenched from their beloved tea garden to the industrial streets of Tyneside.
A world away from the only home she has ever known, Clarissa must start again. Using all her means, she must endure not only poverty but jealousy and betrayal too. Will the reappearance of Wesley give her the link to her old life that she so desperately craves? Or will a fast-changing world and the advent of war extinguish hope forever?
©2016 Janet MacLeod Trotter (P)2016 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved. The Cliffs of Old Tynemouth © 1843 by David Lietch.
Before investing 15+ hours in this book, do know that the plot lines will not be in the least bit resolved, but you'll just have been set up for book 2 (and maybe 3, I don't know). Having said that, I very much enjoyed the book. The author does not betray any great in-depth knowledge of Indian topography, flora, or culture; that aspect is a little disappointing. Nor, despite the continuous references to tea throughout the story, does she enlighten us about what makes for a good tea, or the nuances of its production, blending, and distribution. The story, while set initially in India, quickly transitions to Newcastle, England, and remains firmly there for the rest of the book. The primary story, perhaps, is that of two sisters struggling against some rather cruel and unfortunate strokes of fate, and by dint of the elder sister's doggedness and tenacity, managing to overcome them. The story is an epic one, beginning in the protagonist's early adulthood and continuing through (at the end of book 1) to her being age 33. The follow-on will surely take us through another decade or two. It is very much an old-fashioned type story, with many fortuitous coincidences that stretch one's credulity and a predictability that becomes evident from the first few chapters. Yet it is endlessly varied and kept fresh, as new characters come and old ones fade out, and there is constant drama and tension that keep you wanting to move forward.
A word on the performance: not very well done, I'm afraid. The reader over-enunciates and her sense of timing is frequently dead wrong and inappropriate to the context of what is being said. Her rendering of male voices is clumsy and unconvincing; most of them sound badly constipated and stiff as wood. Indian characters are not realistic sounding, but she does sound plausible with her north English lower class accents. Fortunately, the plot carries the listener forward and one learns to overlook the weakness of the reading.
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