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I had for some time known that Vicki Vanden Driesen was writing a book about her early life in Sri Lanka, and I looked forward to reading the book with a great deal of interest, because I could relate to some of the content of the book. I have known the author since her father, Vivian, was the Manager of Mahadowa Estate, Madulsima, where I began my planting career, as one of his assistants.
The author has portrayed remarkably well the life and the upscale lifestyle in the plantations, in those days and it was not with a little nostalgia that I considered myself fortunate to have caught the tail end of the Golden Era of Planting.
I was quite amazed by the wealth of detail that flowed through the book, right down to the dresses she and her family wore decades ago, the dates, times and places of events and the meticulously presented recipes of exotic dishes that were a true cultural heritage, a legacy of genteel living in a forgotten era.
Although she did not keep an almanac, she obviously had remarkable retentive powers which enabled her to thread the storyline with consummate ease. The chapters on her forebears were fascinating and her admiration of them quite transparent. Many of them were illustrious citizens, whose contributions to society are still in evidence.
The book held my interest till the last page and is written in simple yet elegant prose and was a page turner for me. A great deal of love and affection has been poured into the story and a skein of wistfulness for her earlier lifestyle weaves its poignant way through the pages, which are liberally interspersed with interesting photographs and prints.
However, the chapter on Politics is brilliant and her expertise as a teacher of history is amply demonstrated in those pages. I found it to be a precise, condensed record of our early post independence era, succinct and crisp in articulation, and gleaned much about this period which had eluded me in the past.
Although the book has a degree of relevance to me, I don’t doubt that any reader who picks it up will quickly settle down to read this tale of joy and heartbreak, of excitement and thrill, and empathize with the author in the happiness, the satisfaction, that she has experienced in piecing together the most exhilarating and vivid memories in her early life.
Editor’s Note – Only a handful of My Second Heart books were printed for the author’s family and close friends. The book is however readable online on the History of Ceylon Tea website and can be accessed HERE
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