Dr Isla Fenwick has a life that most modern women of 1933 might envy – her career gives her status, her pedigree adds freedom, and her oldest crush, Jovian Mandeville, has reappeared in her life with a marriage proposal.
Her life is beginning to feel complete. However, she insists on keeping a private promise she made to her late mother to work at the coalface of medicine in India before committing to life as a dutiful wife. With Jove’s blessing, Isla sails to Calcutta to set up a new midwifery clinic. What she can’t anticipate is how India will test everything she relies upon within, challenging her professionalism and her loyalties.
But it is the fateful meeting of enigmatic Professor Saxon Vickery that will call into question what she trusts most about herself. When the pair travel into the foothills of the Himalaya for a stay on a tea plantation outside Darjeeling, Isla must make the most important choice of her life. And at the roof of the world – where heaven and earth collide – a price will be exacted for glimpsing heaven.
From England’s squally seaside town of Brighton to India’s slums of Calcutta and breathtaking Himalayan mountains, this is a heartbreaking story about the pursuit of passion by the bestselling author of The Chocolate Tin.
The Tea Gardens
Fiona McIntosh’s novel, The Tea Gardens, drew me in from the beginning. Not only is the cover beautiful, the entire story is too.
Dr Isla Fenwick is a determined young woman who wishes to travel to India to assist other medical professionals and patients. Before leaving for Calcutta, Isla’s father organises a meeting with a prospective husband for his daughter, who he wishes to see settled and happy. This man was her childhood crush, Jove. Upon meeting, they are at ease in each other’s company and feel love for one another.
The story takes the reader from the beautiful town of Brighton, England to Calcutta, India where there is great need for a doctor, like Dr Fenwick; her midwifery skills and her understanding of TB. Dr Fenwick is a passionate doctor who soon changes the lives of many she meets. She also learns some hard truths about cultural understanding and the caste system in India. McIntosh portrays the beauty of the Indian culture along with the horrific societal norms of this time. I was greatly moved by Isla’s experiences in India.
The poverty stricken India we see where Isla works is juxtaposed with the beauty, peace and atmospheric Brackenridge, with expansive tea gardens and views of the Himalaya. What a treat it is to read about this place. It took me back to my time in India at a yoga retreat. The beauty of the place and peace I felt whilst there is indescribable. Isla’s first impressions of the place took me there with her. McIntosh’s descriptions are poetic.
McIntosh drew me into the characters’ worlds and I loved every moment of it. I can’t wait to read more of her writing. The Tea Gardens is a moving, passionate and breathtakingly beautiful novel.
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