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The Tea Lords [Kindle Edition]

Hella S Haasse , Ina Rilke
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £8.99
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Book Description

Born into wealth and privilege, Rudolf Kerkhoven is destined to follow his father's footsteps into the Dutch colonies, with its uncleared jungle foothills and potential for riches. When he arrives in Java he is immediately smitten by the landscape and the life, and over the seasons, Rudolf's dedication and diligence gradually transform the land into a productive estate for tea, coffee and quinine. When he meets the independent-minded Jenny and their two sons are born, Rudolf is happier than he thought possible. But for Jenny, the damp austerity of their home, her fertility, her father's secret, and the native spirits of the land grow to overshadow their marriage and the life they've strived for together.

Lusciously atmospheric and masterfully drawn, this is an unforgettable story of aspiration, determination, rivalry and romance on a tropical plantation.

Product Description


'A compelling piece of innovative historical fiction' --Sunday Times

'An affecting portrait of a life devoted to duty, which asks whether the sacrifice was worth the emotional costs' --Financial Times

'This morally challenging work has already become a novel by which others, inside and outside its tradition, can be judged' --Independent

`A moving, densely textured book which deserves the status it has already achieved in the Netherlands' --Giles Foden, Conde Nast Traveller

'Haasse's stories derive an unostentatious strength from her steady, irresistible immersion in her characters' lives'

About the Author

Hella S. Haasse was born in 1918 in Batavia, modern-day Jakarta. She moved to the Netherlands after secondary school. She started publishing in 1945 and many of her books have gained classic status in the Netherlands. Haasse has received several prestigious literary awards, among them the Dutch Literature Prize in 2004, and her work has been translated into many languages. The Tea Lords is the first work of hers translated into English for 15 years.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 643 KB
  • Print Length: 364 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1846271703
  • Publisher: Portobello Books; Reprint edition (1 Sept. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0060JEGM8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #233,359 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read with a nice cup of tea 23 Dec. 2010
By Sofia
Haasse's 'The Tea Lords' is about colonial life in the Dutch East Indies (present day Indonesia), as experienced by the Kerkhoven family between 1869 and 1918. Principally, the book follows the expatriate life of Rudolf Kerkhoven, the eldest son, from the time he prepares to leave Holland to join his family in the cultivation of tea, through to the end of his working life.

This is very much a portrait of colonial life and more interestingly perhaps, of the colonial mindset. In Holland prior to his departure, Rudolf sees himself as a man of "broad horizons" ready to go out and explore the world. On arrival in the tea plantations, he falls very genuinely in love with the land and the landscapes, yet slowly the years of arduous work to make a success of his life gradually mean that his world shrinks to little more than the jobs in hand on the farm. The book is rich in the beauty of Indonesia and is peppered with native Soedanese and Malay words, but there is little by way of indigenous activity. The Kerhovens and their friends see themselves as distinct from the Dutch they left behind in Holland, they are steadfast in their belief that they are of the East Indies and belong there.

It's worth pointing out that this is not strictly a novel. The book is instead based on private correspondence and documents from The Indies Tea and Family Archive and also from clearly substantial records from various family collections. As Haasse writes at the end, the material in the book is "not invented but chosen and arranged to meet the demands of the novel". So 'The Tea Lords' is neither quite fact nor fiction but it maintains a beautifully compelling middle road.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant Reconstruction Dutch colonial life 12 Jan. 2011
By DelBano
First I would like to point out that I recently read the book in Dutch - not the English translation.

As the previous reviewer pointed out, Haasse based the book mainly on letters written by members of a Dutch colonial family that was instrumental in developing tea plantations in Indonesia.
She does so in a very creative way - and the resulting characters are very believable and sound authenthic. This is actually the strong point of the book.

I believe it has a much larger appeal that the original Dutch audience- it was a bestseller in Holland. As a neutral reader ( I am from Belgium) I believe that the faithful recreation of these aristocratic / authoritarian colonial people will please many people - and i truly enjoyed the book
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent exposure to colonial Indonesia 25 Feb. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have never even thought much about the colonial period in Indonesia, but this book gave me a unique insight into a period in time and a place in the world that I have had little exposure to. Though originally written in Dutch (I read the English translation, which seemed excellent to me), this book was eminently readable- it felt like a cross between a diary, historical fiction, and actually being in the head of the main character, Rudolf. Although I felt annoyed by Rudolf at times, he was a very empathetic character- you could really feel for him at times.
I never would have picked this book off the shelf, if not for my multi-cultural book club, but I am so glad I read it!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not left brewing long enough 25 Jan. 2012
This book really doesn't work. At the level of the collection of letters upon which it is supposedly based, these are simply too few to give a coherent history. At the level of a novel the character painting is poor and at no point are you made to care what happens to any of them. The letters add little to the storyline and if you expect to become more knowledgeable about tea and quinine plantations in the East Indies then you will be sorely disappointed.
Sales to the descendants of the Kerkhoven Family probably account for its popularity rather like the audience in a school Nativity Play.
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