The tea lords by Hella S Haasse

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The Independent Culture

After a long lifetime ofcontributions toDutch fiction, HellaHaasse died lastmonth aged 93. Thisfinely wrought novelof tea-planters in Javafrom 1873 to 1918 reveals astoryteller both sturdy and subtle.Dutiful, naïve, idealistic, RudolfKerkhoven strives to excel as atea-estate pioneer as the jungle,the Javanese and even his ownfamily thwart him. Out of hisdepth, especially after marriage tovolatile Jenny, the well-meaningcolonial finds history, climate andunruly passions block his path.Rooted in family records, quietlygripping and with a steamilyevocative sense of period andplace, The Tea Lords (translated byIna Rilke) visits Conrad orMaugham territory. But Haasseadds a distinctively Dutch flavourto the turbulent tropical brew