THE FEVER TREE: A Novel
By: Jennifer McVeigh
Published: April 4, 2013
February 4, 2014 reprint
Publisher: Berkley Trade Paperback/Penguin Group
Debut author, Jennifer McVeigh has traveled across Africa, free-camping in desolate, as well as, beautiful areas of the country. Her love for Africa shows through in her story of Frances Irvine, the small pox epidemic, and the diamond trade in her first book, THE FEVER TREE.
Frances is a privileged woman in England until her father dies. Before his death, he arranges for Frances to marry Edwin, a doctor from South Africa whom she knew as a child. During the long trip across the sea, Frances meets a handsome businessman on the ship and even though she is married to Edwin, she engages in an affair with him. Upon her arrival in Cape Town, Frances realizes her life is not what she expected it to be. Her husband has angered the top diamond traffickers by claiming there is a small pox epidemic. Frances’ life is lonely and at times, in danger. She becomes challenged by the rumors and the truth and eventually has to make a choice to either follow her husband or her passion. Will her naivety place her in danger and banish her from happiness forever?
I started this book and then, somewhere in the middle, I found more interesting books to read. I knew I would go back to it and did eventually, but it wasn’t something I was rushing to finish. Frances was not a likable character. Her pouting, her unfaithfulness, and her naivety were draining on the story and I found I didn’t want to read anymore. Once I did pick the book back up, I found the last third of the book to be enjoyable again. There was a bit of drama and danger involving other characters, mostly at the fault of Frances. Frances did find a way to redeem herself and seemed to come to terms with her faults and betrayals. I was surprised with the ending and the future for Frances because I’m not sure it was truly deserved.
What kept me interested in the book were the descriptions of the African people and their communities, the secrets of diamond mining, and the history of the small pox vaccine. I will never look at the diamond ring on my finger the same way after reading the horrors of diamond mining. McVeigh did her research and shared the brutal and horrific sides to this business. I also loved the cover on this paperback reprint. As Frances was walking across the hot sands of Africa, this was the image I had in mind. The symbolism of the title of the book appears both early in the novel and then appears again at the end in a different way, much in the way Frances had changed since the beginning pages.
The first and last third of the book were great but the author kind of lost me in the middle. Overall, I’m still glad I read it because, as with most historical fiction that is based on factual events, I did learn something about Africa, diamond mining, and the medical crisis in Africa at the time.
|Jennifer McVeigh – source|
Jennifer McVeigh graduated from Oxford University in 2002, and went on to work in film, television, radio and publishing, before leaving her day job to graduate with an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. THE FEVER TREE is her first novel. Jennifer McVeigh, who has herself traveled to remote areas of Southern and East Africa, drew on firsthand accounts of life in colonial South Africa, as well as nineteenth century guidebooks and women’s magazines in writing THE FEVER TREE. Jennifer lives in London with her husband and daughter, Alice. You can find her on the web at www.jennifermcveigh.com. You can also find Jennifer on Facebook, HERE, and Twitter, HERE.
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