After six years in England, Rachel has returned to Kenya and the farm where she spent her childhood, but the beloved home she’d longed for is much changed. Her father’s new companion—a strange, intolerant woman—has taken over the household. The political climate in the country grows more unsettled by the day and is approaching the boiling point. And looming over them all is the threat of the Mau Mau, a secret society intent on uniting the native Kenyans and overthrowing the whites.
As Rachel struggles to find her place in her home and her country, she initiates a covert relationship, one that will demand from her a gross act of betrayal. One man knows her secret, and he has made it clear how she can buy his silence. But she knows something of her own, something she has never told anyone. And her knowledge brings her power.
This is a very well written novel with an engaging main character. The setting and location is fascinating and well captured. From the opening page I was transported to a different world - a different time and a different place. I have no personal experience of the Kenya or the 1950s but McVeigh instantly roots the reader very firmly in her location. Not only is McVeigh able to capture the physicality of this time and place but manages to show the reader that this is also a world of different social conventions, expectations, rules and judgements. Her evocation of this more interesting - and perhaps more challenging - aspect of the novel is done absolutely effortlessly.
McVeigh's prose is fluent and well paced. She uses dialogue effectively and it drives the plot forward as well as revealing key details about the characters from the outset. It feels contemporary and accessible despite it's historical setting. Her characters feel convincing and authentic and are as easy to engage with as any modern day protagonist.
Although when the novel started it reminded me of something like "Out of Africa" or some of Dinah Jefferies novels, I know from her previous novel that McVeigh likes to challenge her characters as well as her readers. Despite the atmospheric and excellent description of the sounds, smells, attitudes, colour and vividness of Africa, McVeigh also writes passages that are more challenging, more chilling, more violent and more difficult to read. She has chosen a tumultuous and complex period in history that I knew little about and although the way she explains, explores and conveys the events is faultless, it is also not for the fainthearted.
In the same way, her characters are not always likeable but this is also in keeping with the social and historical context. This novel is thought provoking and the events will leave their mark on the reader as much as the characters and their journeys.
This novel has been meticulously researched and is full of tension, excitement and drama. It will be enjoyed by fans of historical fiction and women's fiction. McVeigh writes well and the dialogue and narration flow effortlessly making it a novel to loose yourself in. It is quite a long read at 400 pages but I recommend it.
Leopard At The Door is published on 13th July 2017.
And if you like the sound of this why not look up The Fever Tree?
1878. South Africa. A country torn apart by greed. Frances Irvine, left destitute by her father's sudden death, is forced to travel from the security and familiarity of her privileged English life to marry Edwin Matthews, an ambitious but penniless young doctor in South Africa. They are posted to a smallpox station on the vast, inhospitable plains of the Karoo but she is so caught up in her own sense of entitlement and loss of status that she cannot recognise its hidden beauty nor the honour and integrity of the man she has married. All her hopes for happiness seem destroyed when her husband exposes the epidemic that is devastating the native community in the diamond-mining town of Kimberley. Here, the gleaming houses of the rich disguise the poverty of a labour force under coercion, and Frances is drawn into a ruthless world of wealth and opportunity, where influential men will go to any lengths to keep the mines in operation. Passionately caught up with the man her husband is fighting to bring down, she must make a fateful choice. "The Fever Tree" is a powerful and moving novel set against the raw backdrop of nineteenth-century Colonial South Africa, its deprivation and beauty alive in equal measure. Above all it is an achingly poignant love story, saving the best and most profound moments of truth and redemption until the last pages.
The Fever Tree was published in 2013 (in a pre Bibliomaniacuk era.....!!) .
For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk