The Tea Lords

Hella S. Haasse

Published: 1 September 2011
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 352 pages
ISBN: 9781846271717


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.

About the author

Image of Hella S. Haasse

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 (Portobello 2010) was the first work of hers translated into English for 15 years. She died in 2011. More about the author


‘A graceful, marvellously achieved improvisation that only a novelist of the greatest imagination and sympathy could have written’ Julian Evans



‘Displays a knowledgeable and intimate empathy for plantation life, sucking you into the steaming Indonesian jungles and cut-glass propriety of Dutch colonial society without suspending judgement on colonialism itself’ Claire Allfree

‘Haasse has created a compelling piece of innovative historical fiction ... [She] effortlessly combines an evocation of the plantation's heady, lush vegetation with her articulation of the growing distance between man and wife. And her aptly chosen metaphors are all skillfully conveyed in Ina Rilke's translation’

‘Haasse's atmospheric historical novel receives an elegantly idiomatic translation from Ina Rilke ... an affecting portrait of a life devoted to duty, which asks whether the sacrifice was worth the emotional costs.’ Adrian Turpin

‘Put it at the top of your reading list’

‘The large cast of characters is convincingly displayed and deftly manipulated. The evocation of Java is vivid and full of feeling’ Allan Massie

‘Translated into graceful prose, this morally challenging work, constructed from documents and letters, has already become a novel by which others, inside and outside its tradition, can be judged.’ Paul Binding

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