The Fever Tree

The Fever Tree

3.7 13
by Jennifer McVeigh
     
 

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“There is nothing more exciting than a new writer with a genuine voice. I loved it.” —Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey

Frances Irvine, left destitute in the wake of her father’s sudden death, has been forced to abandon her life of wealth and privilege in London and emigrate to the Southern Cape of Africa. 1880 South

Overview

“There is nothing more exciting than a new writer with a genuine voice. I loved it.” —Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey

Frances Irvine, left destitute in the wake of her father’s sudden death, has been forced to abandon her life of wealth and privilege in London and emigrate to the Southern Cape of Africa. 1880 South Africa is a country torn apart by greed. In this remote and inhospitable land she becomes entangled with two very different men—one driven by ambition, the other by his ideals. Only when the rumor of an epidemic takes her into the dark heart of the diamond mines does Frances see her road to happiness.
 
But before she can follow that path, Frances must choose between passion and integrity, between her desire for the man who captured her heart and her duty to the man who saved her from near ruin, a decision that will have devastating consequences.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
McVeigh’s distinctive first novel is a lush, sweeping tale of willful self-deception set against a political attempt to hush up a smallpox epidemic for personal wealth in late 19th-century South Africa. Frances Irvine is left destitute by her father’s death after he loses his fortune in railroad speculation in England. Her choices are to leave London and go to Manchester as an unpaid nursemaid or to travel to the Southern Cape of Africa and marry Dr. Edwin Matthews, a family friend. Frances chooses Edwin, though she dreads the prospect of being his wife almost as much as staying in England. Aboard ship, she falls for William Westbrook, a lively man who sees opportunity in Africa. Once in South Africa, Frances refuses to help run the house, is disgusted by her husband’s quest for justice for the Boers, and is easily swayed by pro-colonial arguments. It’s difficult to retain sympathy for Frances, who refuses to face her mistakes for much of the book. By the time she takes an active part in her life, the reader is nearly out of patience. However, the sensory detail and sweep of the novel are exquisite, particularly for a debut. Agent: Stephanie Cabot, the Gernert Company. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
South Africa's corrupt and disease-riddled diamond industry in the 1880s serves as a gritty setting for newcomer McVeigh's historical novel about a young English woman's journey toward self-enlightenment. When Frances Irvine's father dies and leaves her penniless, she reluctantly accepts a distant cousin's marriage proposal. She considers Dr. Edwin Matthews a cold and unemotional man who's socially beneath her, but Frances hopes Edwin's practice in South Africa will one day provide her with the lifestyle to which she's accustomed. Besides, no one else has volunteered to take her in, except for an aunt who expects Frances to work as a nanny in exchange for lodging. Sharing a small second-class cabin with two other girls, 19-year-old Frances sets sail for her new home, but during the voyage, she falls in love with William Westbrook. She's convinced he loves her, too, but Frances eventually resigns herself to marrying Edwin when William fails to follow through on their plans to be together after the voyage. When she arrives at her new home, she's dismayed to discover Edwin lives in a remote area in a hovel. There are few comforts--save for a piano Edwin bought her as a wedding present--and Frances unhappily refuses to adapt to her new life. In fact, Frances views her husband with scorn and doesn't understand his preoccupation with a smallpox outbreak, which he claims is of epidemic proportion, or his defense of the rights of South African natives who work in the mines; she remains more concerned about the discomfort she faces each day due to her husband's lack of financial ambition. After they move to Kensington, though, Frances slowly realizes there's more to her husband than she first assumed, and she discovers that many people respect him, not only for his work as a medical doctor, but as a human rights advocate. Still, she believes that William, not Edwin, represents her path to happiness. Forceful and direct, yet surprisingly lyrical, McVeigh's narrative weaves top-notch research and true passion for the material with a well-conceived plot. Readers might argue that the ending's a bit weak when compared to the boldness of the rest of the story, but that's a minor issue. Overall, this story's a gem.
From the Publisher
“Debut author Jennifer McVeigh has created a fully realized sensory tour of 19th-century South Africa: You feel the grit of each dust storm, taste the mealie Frances chokes down, hear the cicadas scraping through the heat-parched air along with Frances’ plaintive piano playing. Against this desperate backdrop is an exploration of the vicissitudes of passion, the brutality of imperialism and the diamond trade's deeply racist beginnings. Though the book is a page-turner of the ‘who will she choose?’ variety right until the end, the most fascinating strand of the story is Frances, and her struggles to come to terms with her new ideas about society, marriage, family and love.” —Oprah.com

“Fabulous … this debut novel displays real power. McVeigh brings alive the diamond mines, the boom-or-bust frenzy created by instant wealth, the hostility between the Dutch-speaking Boers and the new British colonists. It also conveys the arid beauty of the sun-drenched terrain with its spiders, snakes and meerkats. Most of all, McVeigh captures how greed and racism blinded whites to the savage mistreatment of the black Africans being robbed of their land and its wealth. History has rarely been more vividly presented.” —USA Today

“A page-turner to tempt you.” —Good Housekeeping

 “There is nothing more exciting than a new writer with a genuine voice. I loved it.” —Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey

“Jennifer McVeigh’s first novel, The Fever Tree, is a lovely one. . . . tremendously appealing . . . a page-turner.” —Associated Press

“McVeigh has imagined a rich and dramatic story.”—The Washington Post

“[A] bewitching tale of loss, betrayal and love.” —Vogue, UK

“McVeigh’s distinctive first novel is a lush, sweeping take of willful self-deception. . . . [t]he sensory detail and sweep of the novel are exquisite, particularly for a debut.” —Publishers Weekly

“Read England's hottest book! The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh is already a bestseller in the UK (Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellows is a fan!).”—Woman’s World

“While epic in both geographic and emotional scope, it also does a lovely job of illuminating how easy it is to see everything we lack and how hard it is to see what’s already in front of us. It’s earned comparisons to both Gone with the Wind and Out of Africa.” —Examiner.com

“Fans of romantic classics such a The Thorn Birds and A Woman of Substance will be thrilled to discover McVeigh.” —San Antonio Express-News

“Forceful and direct, yet surprisingly lyrical, McVeigh’s narrative weaves top-notch research and true passion for the material with a well-conceived plot. . . . Overall, this story’s a gem.” —Kirkus Reviews

"With its cinematic descriptions and compulsively readable plotline, this debut novel may well become a book-club favorite. . . . With its social-justice angle; exotic, ruggedly beautiful location; and universal theme of emotional growth, this will have wide appeal.” —Booklist

“[R]iveting debut . . . McVeigh’s exhaustive research shines through . . . The Fever Tree is an engaging read; its capricious heroine grabs you from the start, urging you to ride out her journey before the morning alarm rings.” —BookPage

The Fever Tree is vividly written, and moves so fluidly from Victorian drawing rooms to the wild, spare plains and brutal diamond mines of South Africa; place and people come alive in this book…. A gripping story—I found myself thinking of scenes from this book long after I had turned the last page.” —Kim Edwards, New York Times bestselling author

“An orphaned young gentlewoman, a shipboard romance en route to a strange and perilous land, a forced marriage to an enigmatic stranger . . .  The Fever Tree serves up all the delicious elements of a romantic classic, seasoned by evocative prose and keen moral commentary. Gobble it up and then shelve it next to the Brontë sisters.” —Hillary Jordan, author of Mudbound

“I loved it. I found Frances very convincing as a quiet but deep and passionate Victorian Englishwoman making her way in the most unfamiliar and grueling of circumstances in colonial South Africa. Jennifer McVeigh brilliantly evokes her life and times and the vast, unforgiving landscape. It’s a beautifully written novel of great feeling.” —Rachel Hore, bestselling author of The Place of Secrets and A Gathering Storm

“Jennifer McVeigh writes with perception and grace. This is an epic story of love, deception, and courage, and a young woman’s journey of self-discovery in a country of spectacular beauty.” —Patricia Wastvedt, author of The German Boy
 
“I whizzed through it and the writing was flawless and I was in awe of the breadth and scope. It is a rattling good read.” —Suzannah Dunn, author of The Confession of Katherine Howard and The Sixth Wife

“A world of red dust plains, pioneering grit, and the cruelty of colonial greed. Vividly described and supremely well-paced, this is an unforgettable journey into a heart of darkness.” —Deborah Lawrenson, author of The Lantern

Library Journal
In Victorian London, only-child Frances Irvine is used to a life of leisure and excess. Although her Irish roots mark her as "other," she is marginally accepted into society. However, when her father dies suddenly leaving her alone and penniless, Frances is forced to choose between becoming a live-in nurse for her aunt's children or moving halfway around the world to marry her cousin, Edwin Matthews, a man she hardly knows and does not particularly like. Unwilling to face a lifetime of subservience, she quickly boards a ship to South Africa, where she meets William Westbrook, whose daring attitude is a stark contrast to her fiancé's seriousness and makes Frances yearn for her freedom. Things are hardly as they first appear and Frances must quickly adapt to a new way of life in a strange land where the comforts she once enjoyed are a thing of the past. To survive, she must move beyond the spoiled child she once was and accept her new existence. VERDICT McVeigh's debut paints vivid portrait of a part of the world we rarely experience in Victorian-era romance. Although it is crafted around a protagonist who is naive to the point of frustration and while the story line is slow to get off the ground and requires much patience on the part of the reader, the writing is solid and delivers in the end. Fans of historical fiction with romantic elements will enjoy this one. [See Prepub Alert, 10/28/12.]—Natasha Grant, New York

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780399158247
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/04/2013
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
6.54(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.35(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
 

“Debut author Jennifer McVeigh has created a fully realized sensory tour of 19th-century South Africa: You feel the grit of each dust storm, taste the mealie Frances chokes down, hear the cicadas scraping through the heat-parched air along with Frances’ plaintive piano playing. Against this desperate backdrop is an exploration of the vicissitudes of passion, the brutality of imperialism and the diamond trade's deeply racist beginnings. Though the book is a page-turner of the ‘who will she choose?’ variety right until the end, the most fascinating strand of the story is Frances, and her struggles to come to terms with her new ideas about society, marriage, family and love.” —Oprah.com
 
“Fabulous … this debut novel displays real power. McVeigh brings alive the diamond mines, the boom-or-bust frenzy created by instant wealth, the hostility between the Dutch-speaking Boers and the new British colonists. It also conveys the arid beauty of the sun-drenched terrain with its spiders, snakes and meerkats. Most of all, McVeigh captures how greed and racism blinded whites to the savage mistreatment of the black Africans being robbed of their land and its wealth. History has rarely been more vividly presented.” —USA Today
 
“A page-turner to tempt you.” —Good Housekeeping
 
“Read England's hottest book! The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh is already a bestseller in the UK (Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellows is a fan!) —Woman’s World
 
“Jennifer McVeigh’s first novel, The Fever Tree, is a lovely one. . . . tremendously appealing . . . a page-turner.” —Associated Press

“McVeigh has imagined a rich and dramatic story.”—The Washington Post

 “There is nothing more exciting than a new writer with a genuine voice. I loved it.” —Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey
 
“McVeigh’s distinctive first novel is a lush, sweeping take of willful self-deception. . . . [t]he sensory detail and sweep of the novel are exquisite, particularly for a debut.” —Publishers Weekly
 
“While epic in both geographic and emotional scope, it also does a lovely job of illuminating how easy it is to see everything we lack and how hard it is to see what’s already in front of us. It’s earned comparisons to both Gone with the Wind and Out of Africa.” —Examiner.com

“[A] bewitching tale of loss, betrayal and love.” —Vogue, UK
 
“Fans of romantic classics such a The Thorn Birds and A Woman of Substance will be thrilled to discover McVeigh.” —San Antonio Express-News

"The Fever Tree is such a tale, a big bralwing book that's reminiscent of an old-time classic. . . . There's much to enjoy in this historical novel that delves into the injustices of diamond mining. . . . The Fever Tree is entertaining, the plot moves along, and is engaging. . . ." —The Missourian

“Forceful and direct, yet surprisingly lyrical, McVeigh’s narrative weaves top-notch research and true passion for the material with a well-conceived plot. . . . Overall, this story’s a gem.” —Kirkus Reviews 
 
"With its cinematic descriptions and compulsively readable plotline, this debut novel may well become a book-club favorite. . . . With its social-justice angle; exotic, ruggedly beautiful location; and universal theme of emotional growth, this will have wide appeal.” —Booklist
 
“[R]iveting debut . . . McVeigh’s exhaustive research shines through . . . The Fever Tree is an engaging read; its capricious heroine grabs you from the start, urging you to ride out her journey before the morning alarm rings.” —BookPage
 
The Fever Tree is vividly written, and moves so fluidly from Victorian drawing rooms to the wild, spare plains and brutal diamond mines of South Africa; place and people come alive in this book…. A gripping story—I found myself thinking of scenes from this book long after I had turned the last page.” —Kim Edwards, New York Times–bestselling author
 

 
“An orphaned young gentlewoman, a shipboard romance en route to a strange and perilous land, a forced marriage to an enigmatic stranger . . .  The Fever Tree serves up all the delicious elements of a romantic classic, seasoned by evocative prose and keen moral commentary. Gobble it up and then shelve it next to the Brontë sisters.” —Hillary Jordan, author of Mudbound
 
“I loved it. I found Frances very convincing as a quiet but deep and passionate Victorian Englishwoman making her way in the most unfamiliar and grueling of circumstances in colonial South Africa. Jennifer McVeigh brilliantly evokes her life and times and the vast, unforgiving landscape. It’s a beautifully written novel of great feeling.” —Rachel Hore, bestselling author of The Place of Secrets and A Gathering Storm
 
“Jennifer McVeigh writes with perception and grace. This is an epic story of love, deception, and courage, and a young woman’s journey of self-discovery in a country of spectacular beauty.” —Patricia Wastvedt, author of The German Boy
 
“I whizzed through it and the writing was flawless and I was in awe of the breadth and scope. It is a rattling good read.” —Suzannah Dunn, author of The Confession of Katherine Howard and The Sixth Wife
 
“A world of red dust plains, pioneering grit, and the cruelty of colonial greed. Vividly described and supremely well-paced, this is an unforgettable journey into a heart of darkness.” —Deborah Lawrenson, author of The Lantern
 
 

Meet the Author

Jennifer McVeigh graduated from Oxford University in 2002 with a First in English literature. She went on to work in film, television, radio, and publishing, before giving up her day job to write fiction.

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Fever Tree 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
nlbress More than 1 year ago
To those who say this reads like a Harlequin novel, I don't understand that comparison at all!?  I've read lots of Harlequins for a fun, quick read, and they do not compare in their historical research or emotional depth.  Not, I'm not saying this is the "deepest" book I've read, but I definitely thought the characters were emotionally complex (especially Frances) and the history and depiction of South Africa was fascinating.  Definitely worth your time - I enjoyed it.
USF1970 More than 1 year ago
I AGREE w/a previous reviewer......this reads like a Harlequin romance novel. I am so glad I didn't buy this (got it from the library) and I doubt that I'll be able to finish it. It is far too predictable. The info about South Africa as a British colony is interesting but the characters are extremely one-dimensional.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wait til it's a freebie. I'm finding it not very engaging and a little like a harlequin romance.
BeachRead245 More than 1 year ago
I am so excited to share the novel of The Fever Tree with you. Thank you to Putnam Books for sending me a copy. Synopsis: Frances lost her mother early on in her childhood. While I am sure he loved his daughter he couldn’t be bothered with raising her. As time moves on Frances meets Edwin who her father has decided to help. Little does she know that there will be a request made of Edwin to care for Frances. When her father dies and she is left with a marriage proposal or go be a nursemaid for her aunt; after having lost everything. Frances accepts the proposal and moves to the wilds of South Africa. She meets some interesting characters along the way. What will she learn? And how will it affect her relationship with Edwin? My Thoughts: I have to say that I loved this novel! I didn’t think I would initially. The main factor is the growth and development of the characters within the novel. I felt for Frances at times but also wanted to shake her. Then there was Edwin who I wanted to sit down and explain why Frances is the way that she is. The story plays out against a setting of both England and South Africa. The author does a great job of contrasting the coldness of England with the warmth of South Africa. The Plot of this novel focuses on what happens when a young overprotected and spoiled girl suddenly loses everything? Who would you root for in the novel Frances, Edwin, or William?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although the writer had lovely sentence structures and an extensive vocabulary, her plot and characters became predictable. It also grated that the author morphed into cliched recaps of the plot's meaning and the protagonist's burgeoning maturity. Read this book if forced to by well-meaning book club members, but don't expect transcendence.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this book. The characters and all they went through was spellbinding.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
jmchshannon More than 1 year ago
In 1880s London society, a young, wealthy girl’s options were few. When Frances Irvine suddenly finds herself a poor orphan, her limited options become even fewer. Enter Dr. Edwin Matthews, the gentlemen doctor and distant cousin who offers her his hand in marriage and a life in the south African colonies. With little choice, Frances accepts his proposal and finds herself immersed in a world for which she is both mentally and physically unprepared. Jennifer McVeigh’s The Fever Tree follows Frances from London to Africa and from the veldt to the diamond mines. Along the way, she discovers passion, depravity, greed, a shocking disregard for human life, and an extremely circuitous and lengthy journey to happiness. Much like Scarlett, Frances is an extremely polarizing character. She is meant to be a highly flawed character as the story follows her personal growth alongside the tragedy unfolding around her. She is predictable and spoiled; she makes some truly awful decisions, and her self-centeredness is at times appalling. Some readers might not be able to overlook her continued poor decision-making and her constant need to play the victim of her circumstances, while others will be able to look past that and focus on the character she becomes. Still others will find her shift in demeanor and attitude rather abrupt and more of a convenient, and predictable, plot device than a realistic change. However, one’s enjoyment of the novel does not hinge on the likeability of the main character. The Fever Tree is a sum of its parts, of which Frances is just one portion. Any discussion about The Fever Tree would be incomplete without discussing the similarities between it and Gone With The Wind; even the publishers mention the likeness. This is not to say that the two stories are exactly the same, but the parallels exist. Frances is a spoiled, naïve girl compelled by outside forces to grow up, and the route she takes to do so is extremely unconventional. There are two men in her life – one the placid intellectual, the other the dashing roué. Frances’ choice is ultimately the wrong one, and she must suffer the consequences. The scope of The Fever Tree is also similar in that both take place in areas and during times of extreme turmoil and danger. Just like Scarlett eventually adjusts to the new world brought by the Civil War, Frances must adjust to the dangers and lack of conventions found in southern Africa. While readers might feel that nagging sense of familiarity throughout the novel, The Fever Tree does a remarkable job of standing upon its own laurels. Its presentation of the African diamond mines in the 1880s as well as their supporting towns is breathtaking in its brutal clarity, while the scenes that occur in the veldt are stunning in their starkness. Both locations were harsh, unforgiving, and downright dangerous to those unable or unwilling to adapt. Ms. McVeigh also takes a no-holds-barred approach to the political machinations and the ruling entrepreneurs running the mines. The cold-blooded greed, fueled by racism, is horrifying and yet not surprising given how little has really changed in the subsequent decades. While racism and poor working conditions are no surprise to any student of history, what is shocking is the heart of The Fever Tree – the smallpox epidemic hidden by the mines’ owners in order to protect their economic interest. This portion of the novel is absolutely fascinating with its exploration of the scope of the conspiracy and the fact that it completely negates ordinary reactions in times of medical crisis. In spite of its flaws – its predictability, its clichéd and fairly unlikeable characters - readers will still marvel at the ambition and scope behind The Fever Tree. It is not just a personal growth story about a young girl of privilege. It is really a story about the diamond mines and the immense personal tragedy surrounding them. All of the characters’ actions revolve around the mines in some fashion, and Frances’ fate is directly tied to them. The little-known true story about the epidemic cover-up makes for a tragic and highly compelling backdrop against which Frances searches for her path in life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the characters. Riviting story. I learned some history of a very unknown place. Excellent book. A++++ JOB.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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