Why reading and writing is the road to happiness...

This blog started years ago as a place to muse on the life projects keeping me entertained. It is no surprise then that it has morphed into a blog about my reading as that has been my lifelong project. Here I review lots of different types of books, with an added focus on Australian women writers. Hope you enjoy - feel free to contribute to the conversation!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Book Review: 'The Tea Chest' by Josephine Moon

The Tea ChestI picked up a copy of the 2014 release 'The Tea Chest' by Australian writer Josephine Moon in my quest to read more contemporary women's fiction, because of its lovely cover art, and lastly because I am a die-hard tea drinker.  The novel didn't disappoint in its immersion into the world of tea making. This pleasant piece of fiction revolves around four women who are brought together by various circumstance to open a tea shop in the high end shopping district of London. At the opening of the story we find Kate, a hippy tea designer from Queensland, has inherited a half share in the tea company her boss Simone founded: Kate had caught entrepreneur Simone's attention with her tea stall at the local markets and had helped build the franchise in Australia. Now Simone had passed and left Kate with the daunting but exciting task of expanding into the most demanding tea market short of China - England. With the support of her husband back at home, and her newly hired business consultant Leila tagging along to London, Kate finds herself facing the world of big business and worries that she is out of her depth. Along the way, Kate and Leila meet sisters Elizabeth and Victoria, who with their local knowledge of London, help give a derelict shop a few licks of paint to create an absolutely gorgeous sounding tea emporium:
"But the piece de resistance was the part that was closest to Kate's heart. It was a series of window boxes growing plants that served as an interactive tea-making centre. They could be seen through the windows from the footpath and would entice people in off the streets. Here, customers could pick their own ingredients, including mint, lavender, rose petals, dandelion petals and lemongrass, and The Tea Chest staff would make them their own tea design right there in the store, then they could sit in one of the welcoming spots to sip it".
The strength of Moon's novel is the charming descriptions of the 'Tea Chest' business itself - I desperately wanted to visit the shop myself and wished it existed, such was the power of those passages. Moon knows her tea, and clearly has a passion for the subject.
The plot ambled along and there was some gentle humour in  the side stories involving Elizabeth and Victoria's slightly whacky family life. I thought Moon's dialogue realistic and appreciated the insightful relationship painted between Kate and her husband Mark as they negotiated the stressful financial decisions in starting up a risky business. It was refreshing to read a contemporary women's novel concerning itself with the impact of career on women's lives rather than merely their love interests. Unfortunately, the rather naive way the women approached the finances of the business was slightly off kilter but necessary to the plot, and only slightly detracted from the realism of the piece. 'The Tea Chest' was a pleasure to read, and will certainly be a hit with all the book club tea aficionados.

*This review is part of the Australian Womens Writers Challenge 2014


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