20 December 2016

Today's Read: Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh

Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeighWhat would it be like to return to your childhood home in Africa after having been away for years to be educated in England? Rachel Fullsworth is full of hope and excitement as she heads back to Kenya in the early 1950s to be reunited with her widowed father.

The steward has said we will dock at 9:00, but I am too excited to sleep, and I walk onto the deck in the dark, long before the sun comes up, watching for the first sight of land. I pull a packet of cigarettes from my coat pocket, light one, and inhale, smoke curling up into the warm night sky. My heart beats out a rhythm born of long anticipation. After six years, I'm finally coming home.
Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh (Putnam, 2016, p. 1 [a typo silently corrected])

Quick Facts

  • Setting: 1950s; Kenya (with some flashbacks)
  • Circumstances: Rachel was sent to school in England at twelve years old, shortly after her mother died. She is looking forward to seeing her father and family home in Kenya, but soon after her arrival she realizes the sociopolitical atmosphere has changed: English colonialism is on its last legs, and the country of her heart is no longer safe. What's more, Rachel discovers her father has been living with a woman who is has little love for the Kikuyu. As civil unrest threatens to turn violent, Rachel must figure out where her loyalties lie: with family, with friends, or with a new dangerous love.
  • Genre: historical fiction; adult audience
  • Themes: family, racism, Africa, forbidden love, secrets
  • Main characters: Rachel, facing the stark realities of her new life in Kenya; her widowed father, whose attentions have shifted to his live-in companion; the new woman of the house who rules with an iron fist; various friends and neighbors, both European and African; a love interest.
  • Why I want to read this: First, I really enjoyed McVeigh's first novel, The Fever Tree, and I have every reason to believe the Leopard at the Door will have relatable, realistic characters and compelling story. Second, the novel's setting and time period call to me. The world was changing, and we often forget how larger political and cultural events affected the individuals who lived through them. Finally, I think I'm going to like Rachel's insider/outsider view point.
  • Historical background: The book is set in the years of the Mau Mau Rebellion (1952-1960), in which hundreds of British soldiers and police and tens of thousands of African civilians were killed or executed. Leopard at the Door was inspired by McVeigh's life-long love of Kenya, including the romantic view presented by colonialist novels and memoirs. But after inheriting a small suitcase full of period papers, photos, and an unpublished manuscript that revealed the horrors of the Kikuyu uprising, McVeigh was awakened to the truth and knew she had to write this book.


Vicki 12/20/16, 7:26 AM  

I have this book in my "to read" folder at my library.

Kathy Martin 12/20/16, 8:11 AM  

This does sound like an interesting story. I have two this week: Coffin Road by Peter May and The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacy Lee. Both are from my review stack. Happy reading!

Unknown 12/20/16, 8:25 AM  

I have this book for review and have a giveaway contest on my blog that will run for a few more days. Thanks for sharing your post Beth!

bermudaonion 12/20/16, 8:29 AM  

I'm looking forward to this one.

Anonymous,  12/20/16, 8:38 AM  

This clearly has covered a fascinating and disgraceful period in British colonial history - I hope the book does the subject justice... My TT this week is a lot chillier - https://sjhigbee.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/teaser-tuesday-20th-december-2016/

Laurel-Rain Snow 12/20/16, 9:55 AM  

I would enjoy learning more about the era, especially in this setting, and the characters sound like real people. I love the cover, too.

Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog.

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours 12/20/16, 9:56 AM  

sounds very interesting, thanks for sharing

Literary Feline 12/20/16, 11:49 AM  

I love the cover of this one. I have heard great things about this author's work. I would definitely read this one. Thanks for sharing!

Alice Audrey 12/20/16, 12:05 PM  

You had me with the title. Nice imagery in the teaser.


Sandra Nachlinger 12/20/16, 12:18 PM  

I love stories about going home, and this sounds like a good one. After reading the first paragraph, I'm wondering what the character will find and I'd keep reading to find out.
Thank you for visiting my blog. I appreciate your comments.
Sandy @ Writing With a Texas Twang

Jordan @ForeverLostinLiterature 12/20/16, 12:34 PM  

I've been seeing a lot about this one recently. I really enjoyed the first paragraph, so I'll definitely have to check this one out. :)

Daryl 12/20/16, 2:43 PM  

intriguing ... thanks!

Unknown 12/20/16, 3:05 PM  

How poignant and interesting in origins.


Nise' 12/20/16, 10:01 PM  

I do like the opening of this one and would keep reading.

Cleopatra Loves Books 12/21/16, 1:20 AM  

This sounds like a powerful read Beth. It isn't a book I've come across before so thank you for sharing as I liked that opening very much.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 12/21/16, 7:06 AM  

That intro has me curious, I'm wondering where she has been for 6 years. I'd like to know more.

(Diane) bookchickdi 12/23/16, 6:36 AM  

One of the most interesting classes I took in college was an African history class so this book really appeals to me.

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