6. The Fever Tree: A Novel by Jennifer McVeigh (2012)
South Africa in 1880 is a remote and inhospitable land, yet Frances is absolutely amazed by the amount of personal freedom that she finds there. While she lived in London, Frances had once thought herself horribly constrained by the rules of society; grudgingly accepting her position, but unable to break out of the situation. Her life in South Africa is so different from life as she knew it in London; filled with a dangerously enticing freedom that Frances has never experienced before.
In this brutal and unknown land, Frances will become entangled with two very different men – one driven by his ideals, the other by his ambition. Edwin Matthews is a distant cousin – a serious, but dedicated doctor who makes his living in the diamond fields of South Africa. He is a careful man, determined to do whatever he can to get ahead in life. To Frances’ mind, Edwin is taking blatant advantage of her reduced circumstances; and she is convinced that his sudden interest in her is largely due to her dramatic fall in fortune, rather than any sense of romantic feelings for her.
Reluctantly traveling by steamship to South Africa to be married, Frances is abruptly thrown in to the company of William Westbrook. William is the polar opposite of Edwin, and Frances is absolutely enchanted by him from their first meeting. He is a dashing and ambitious diamond trader, whose tales of his thrilling exploits capture Frances’ imagination. Magnetically attractive, spontaneous and courageous, William is everything that Edwin is not, and she is swept away by an intoxicating, all-consuming love. Stunned by the strength of her attraction, Frances secretly begins to hope that she has found a viable alternative to a loveless marriage with Edwin.
However, Frances’ idyllic dreams are suddenly met by harsh, unvarnished reality. Removed from civilization and disillusioned by her isolation, she soon finds herself living in the middle of a tremendous dilemma – forced to choose between passion and integrity. Her choice has the potential to change her life forever. South Africa is not quite the colonial paradise that Frances expected it might be – the desolate, seemingly barren landscape does contain a certain hidden beauty – but nothing else is as it seems.
Only when the rumor of a smallpox epidemic takes Frances into the dark heart of the diamond mines does she see her true path to happiness. She soon realizes that she has so much to learn about herself, as well as this strange new land. This strange land that has become her home.
Despite this story’s initially slow pace, I still very much enjoyed reading it. In my opinion, the story was slightly difficult to get into and I found that it dragged slightly in certain parts. Once I got past the slow points though, the pace picked up considerably and I really got into the story. I appreciated reading about the mining conditions of South Africa, and was stunned by the brutal reality of the colonial era. I would give this book an A!
A! – (90-95%)
Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight