Words leave imprints in your mind like footprints in the sand...
Lake Louise, Canada
Copenhagen, Denmark
Loch Ness, Scotland
Thailand
  • Location: Java

The Tea Lords

The Tea Lords

Why a Booktrail?

Late 1800s, early 1900s: The story of what it must have been like to work within a tea plantation is quite intriguing.

  • ISBN: 1846271711
  • Translator: Ina Rilke
  • Genre: Fiction, Historical

What you need to know before your trail

Set in late 19th century Java- this is the story of a set of Dutch colonists. Rudolf Kerkhoven leaves behind his comfortable life in Delft to run the family’s estates in Java’s Preanger region.

He falls in love with a girl from Jakarta but the differences between them make a relationship difficult especially when she travels to the home country and finds out what she has been missing out on in Java.

By now Rudolf is finding work at the plantation very hard. To make matters worse he and Jenny become estranged. Bitter resentments are about to result in a terrible solution.

Travel Guide

Amazingly this book was partly inspired by letters and documents that the author gathered from The Indies and Family Archive and families who actually lived during that time. He writes that the material he found is ‘not invented but chosen and arranged to meet the demands of the novel”.

The strength of The Tea Lords is the atmosphere it places you in right from the start: the lush green landscapes of the Javanese countryside are all around. The colonial way of life is the main focus here and we get an unsettling glimpse into its dark underbelly.

Rudolf Kerkhoven is the main character and it’s his life we follow as he leaves his native Holland to prepare for work on the plantations. Tea growing, how it is done, the work and organisation involved is evoked in every sense –

Besides charting the terrain there were other priorities, such as building a bridge across the Tjisondari…

“He would have to find workmen to clear the weed infested fields and pathways…”

Plantation life has to be read about to be believed – this is so far removed to anything we’d read before and it’s very fascinating how it must have all started out years ago. The closing scene in the cool, green forest of Gamboeng is particularly of note.

“He inhaled the green fragrance of Gamboeng. He heard the breeze whispering in the treetops, the soft rustle and creak of twings within the tangled undergrowth”

The main theme here obviously is the Dutch East India Company and their workings in and around the Preanger region and how life must have been life for its workers.

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