Book Spotlight & Review: Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh

Author: Jennifer McVeigh
Release Date: January 3, 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Son
Source: Publisher
Pages: 400
Reviewer: Marie
Rating: 4.5 Stars
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After six years exiled in England, Rachel has returned to Kenya and the farm where she spent her childhood, only to find the home she has longed for in the grip of change. Her father’s new companion—a strange, intolerant woman—has taken over the household, and the political climate in the country is growing more unsettled by the day. Looming over them all is the threat of Mau Mau—a secret society intent on uniting the Africans and overthrowing the whites.

As Rachel struggles to find her place in her home, she initiates a secret relationship, one that will demand from her an act of betrayal. Only 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.

From the celebrated author of The Fever TreeLeopard at the Door is a captivating and evocative portrait of a woman—and a nation—on the cusp of profound change.

Marie's Thoughts
Leopard at the Door is a coming of age story depicting the life of our protagonist, Rachel. It is a historical fiction novel set in Kenya post WWII. From the beginning, the author introduces us to a breathtaking scenery and characters that are well thought out and written with spectacular depth.

As the story began, I found myself intrigued by Rachel and her life. I continued to read and found myself invested in her and her past. With the author’s guidance, I became enthralled with the dynamics of Rachel’s upbringing, the untimely death of her mother, her lie beyond Kenya, and her return to the very place she went so long trying to avoid. I was hooked!

But then came Rachel's father and his wife. This is where the story started to lose me. I can somewhat understand a level of bitterness on Rachel's father's part, but this man and his absolutely awful wife were nearly too much, even for me. They were cold, unfeeling and just wretched to Rachel. Their inexcusable behavior made me despise them, which I suppose is telling of just how gifted the author truly is.

Outside of Rachel's relationship with her father and his wife, this book is superb. It has historical relevance, a touching story line and what I would call a unique romance. I never would have chosen this book on my own, but I'm glad that I was given the opportunity to give it a chance. I will definitely be giving this author more reading time.

I read and reviewed a paperback copy of the book gifted to the blog in exchange for an honest review. All conclusions reached are my own.

Historical Angle: British Kenya’s Mau Mau Rebellion spanned eight deadly years, from 1952 to 1960. Contrary to public perception, just thirty-two European settlers died in the uprising, and another two hundred British soldiers and police were killed. In contrast, over eighteen hundred African civilians were murdered by Mau Mau and a reported twelve thousand Mau Mau rebels died, though the real figure is likely closer to twenty thousand. More than one thousand Kikuyu men were executed for Mau Mau offenses, far more than the 346 convicted murderers. It remains the largest scale state execution in the history of British imperialism.

Jennifer McVeigh graduated from Oxford University in 2002 with a degree in English literature and went on to work in film, television, radio and publishing.  She left her day job to do a Masters in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and then wrote The Fever Tree.  She lives in London with her husband and three children.

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