Book Talk: Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh
Updated: Jul 26, 2019
If you guys follow my Instagram with any level of regularity, you may have seen that, back in December 2018, I made a post featuring the beautiful yellow cover of The Fever Tree, also by Jennifer McVeigh. (And if you don’t follow me on Instagram, that’s okay, and you aren’t missing out, because it’s not exactly NatGeo photography, if you know what I’m saying.)
I was blown away by The Fever Tree. It felt unreal to me, the vividness of the unusual setting, the absolute understanding with which McVeigh crafted each character – these people who were so real, whom I related to and hated and understood – and the desperation she elicited from me as a reader as the tension built and the plot thickened.
Leopard at the Door follows almost exactly in The Fever Tree’s footsteps when it comes to McVeigh’s skill as an author. Guys, I’m just sitting here shaking my head because I cannot wrap my mind around how she does it. As someone who struggles just to get words down on a page, it’s beyond amazing to me that the author was not only able to get words down on a page, but to come up with this idea in the first place, and to breathe what felt like real life, real searing emotion, into each of the characters, and, more importantly, into the setting.
There aren’t many books that I’ve read set in Africa, but ever since reading McVeigh’s books, I can’t help wanting more. Just from reading two books set in this part of the world, it’s opened up a whole new setting for me to explore – it’s almost as good as finding a new author to binge-read. Now, instead of narrowing my searches to a specific author, I can search books set in Africa, because I have a chance of getting back to that place I went to in McVeigh’s books: the crushing heat, the torrential, sometimes destructive rains, which are so important to the land that it’s almost a part of the culture. I have a chance to learn more about some astonishing stretches of history, with regards to the African people; and with that, all the oppression and abuse, slavery and rebellion, compassion and ignorance, and education and denial that comes with learning their history, the history of the modern world.
So, with that said, I should probably tell you a little bit about the story. In case my glowing review of the author’s writing skills don’t inspire you to read her at once. (See this link for my brief overview of The Fever Tree.)
Leopard at the Door is the story of Rachel, a European girl who grew up on her father’s vast farm in Kenya during the 1950s. Upon her mother’s death, she is expelled from her home to an English boarding school for six years, and it isn’t until she’s 18 that she returns back to the land she has always loved.
But when she returns, she finds that Africa, her home, and her father – are not how she left them. Her father now lives with a “strange, intolerant” woman, who seems to be slowly taking over the farm and Rachel’s father, leaving no room for Rachel. Aside from that, there is unrest and violence breaking out across Kenya in the form of the Mau Mau – a rebel group determined to take Kenya back from the invasive white settlers.
Rachel struggles being back home – with her father, her father’s new companion, and with the increasingly frequent presence of a power-hungry man from her childhood – a man she fears for reasons she’s never told anyone. But with her initiation of a secret romance with someone else from her youth, she unwittingly ignites a series of events that will change everything she has ever known.
Have you ever read Jennifer McVeigh’s books? What did you think? I’d love to talk details – but not spoilers! – with you down in the comments! 😊