Top positive review
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A stunning debut (four and a half stars)
on 8 February 2013
Following the untimely death of her father Frances Irvine is left alone and penniless; the choices before her are bleak and limited. With nothing left for her in England she accepts an offer of marriage from Dr Edwin Matthews; however, it is a marriage which Frances feels trapped into, and she struggles to adapt to the harsh realities of her new life in South Africa. Hardly helping matters is her secret burning love for the dashing William Westbrook, whom she meets upon her voyage to the Cape; a man who is worlds apart from her husband, and whom she simply cannot banish from her mind. Caught between these two vastly different men, and in a land corrupted by the greed of the diamond mining industry, plagued by smallpox and left famished by drought, Frances finds herself on a path to self-discovery!
Set in the 1880s, The Fever Tree is a sweeping and epic tale, and one which readily draws you in; from the high society of London to the stretching plains of the African veldt and the ramshackle tents of the diamond mining town Kimberly, the scenes simply burst into life almost as if you were watching them on the silver screen.
McVeigh captures the horrors and atrocities, the poverty and disease, the human corruption and exploitation at hand in South Africa commendably,whilst at the same time painting its natural beauty and resilience.It all plays as a brilliant backdrop for Frances, who at the start of the novel is nothing more than a rather over-indulged and self-absorbed Englishgirl, to begin to slowly appreciate the wider world around her; and the story is really about her gradual evolvement into a more mature young woman.
It has to be said that Frances is often quite unlikable, and some of the decisions and choices she makes are disastrous; however, at the same time one is almost willing her to wake up to the real world, and she does evoke a certain sympathy. The love triangle between the three central characters is well drawn, if perhaps a tad predictable; however, it is hard not to be drawn into this story of a slow-burning romance as Frances gradually comes to realize the true worth of the man she is married to.
Overall The Fever Tree is a classic old-fashioned tale, with romance, adventure and well drawn characters whom you come to care about, not to mention a wonderful insight into some of the social conflicts and colonial life in Africa of that time. The descriptions and prose are beautifully vivid, and the attention to detail and historical research commendable. A brilliant debut and McVeigh will certainly be an author I shall be watching out for in future!