The Fever Tree

The Fever Tree

by Jennifer McVeigh


$24.26 $25.95 Save 7% Current price is $24.26, Original price is $25.95. You Save 7%.
View All Available Formats & Editions


“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.

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

About 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.

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.” —
“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.” —

“[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

Reading Group Guide


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 a smallpox epidemic takes her into the dark heart of the diamond mines does she see her path to happiness.

But this is a ruthless world of avarice and exploitation, where the spoils of the rich come at a terrible human cost and powerful men will go to any lengths to keep the mines in operation. Removed from civilization and disillusioned by her isolation, Frances must choose between passion and integrity, a decision that has devastating consequences.

The Fever Tree is a compelling portrait of colonial South Africa, its raw beauty and deprivation alive in equal measure. But above all it is a love story about how—just when we need it most—fear can blind us to the truth.


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. The Fever Tree is her first novel.


  • Early in the novel, Frances looks into the Wardian case in her uncle’s house and sees the ferns pressed against the glass “as though appealing for escape.” She realizes that “the glass case offered protection—the ferns wouldn’t last a minute exposed to the pollution of London air—but it would also, eventually, suffocate them.” What is the significance of this image?
  • In the first chapter, Edwin Matthews admits that he has never liked domesticated plants. He describes Mr. Irvine’s roses as “monstrosities—deviations from their true form in nature.” Frances reminds him of this conversation in a climactic scene toward the end of the novel when she compares herself to her father’s domesticated roses, unable to survive in the wild. Discuss the motif of “monstrous” domestication in the novel, and its importance to the book as a whole.
  • Frances is an outsider, rejected by her uncle’s family and dismissed by society. To what extent is her desire to belong responsible for the decisions she makes? Can you forgive her for her mistakes?
  • Frances describes the women traveling with the Female Middle Class Emigration Society as “cargo being shipped for export. Women without choices.” How do you feel about the limited choices presented to women in the novel? In what ways has society changed in the last 130 years?
  • Racial prejudice is a constant theme in the novel. The Irish, the Jews, the Boers, and the Africans are all discriminated against. What motivates the various forms of discrimination? What did the novel teach you about racial politics in the nineteenth century? How do these attitudes make you feel about Victorian culture?
  • William Westbrook justifies the presence of English speculators in Africa as “the nature of history, of progress.” How convincing is he when he wants to be, and why? What—if any—moral code does he live by?
  • The novel hinges on a misunderstanding: Frances’s belief that Edwin was desperate to marry her. When Edwin tells her the truth, she is stunned. Were you surprised as a reader? What impact did the revelation have on how you felt about both Edwin and Frances? And how does it bring about a shift in power between the two characters?
  • When Frances discovers the truth about William and her own responsibility for Mariella’s death, McVeigh writes, “it was as if she had woken from a fairy tale and found herself in a world that was starker and more brutal than she could ever have imagined; a world in which she would be held to account.” Discuss the significance of the fairy–tale simile here. For what will Frances be held to account?
  • What is the importance of the landscape of the Karoo in the novel? How does it test Frances? What is the nature and significance of its beauty?
  • Frances tells Edwin about a dream she has, in which a cutting from a tree at Rietfontein has shriveled up into a spiny knot of thorns. “I was upset,” she says, “because it was no longer alive and somehow it was my fault.” What it is the meaning of the dream, and why is she so devastated?
  • In his article for The Diamond Field, Edwin writes: “There is a cancer at the heart of the Europeans’ relationship with Africa, and its nature is self–interest.” What did you find most shocking about the history of diamond mining in South Africa, as it is set out in the book? How relevant is Edwin’s statement today?
  • At first glance, the diamond mines of South Africa and the polite society of upper–class London couldn’t be more different. Yet are there similarities? Are both institutions built on exploitation? In what ways are they similar? In what ways are they different?
  • Discuss the symbolic importance of the fever tree in the novel.
  • Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews

    See All Customer Reviews

    Fever Tree 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 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?
    Beamis12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Set in the latter part of Queen Victoria's reign, this is the story of Francis a young woman ill equipped to handle the circumstances in which she finds herself. I actually found this part of the story rather cliched, and although I had some sympathy for her I found the decisions she made irritating. The historical aspects of this novel I loved knowing so little about this before I started reading. South Africa in its Colonial period, the diamond mines, Kimberly and Cape Town, the Boers and the small pox epidemic that threatened the diamond mines. Francis does redeem herself in my eyes by the end of the book, and I found the ending to be extremely well done.
    teresa1953 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Frances Irvine has fallen on hard times. Her father has died very suddenly and his financial affairs have left her destitute. With the prospect of having to be a general dogsbody to her aunt in Manchester looming over her, she accepts a previously rejected marriage proposal from Dr Edwin Matthews whom she vaguely knew as a child. This is Victorian London. There are very few avenues for a young woman to explore.The couple are to set up home in colonial South Africa where Edwin has accepted a medical placement. Travelling aboard ship to join him there, Frances falls under the spell of ladies¿ man William Westbrook. The reluctant bride to be believes Westbrook¿s promises to end his engagement to the daughter of a wealthy diamond merchant and marry Frances instead. As a reader, you can sense impending doom.This is a beautiful debut novel, based on the diary of a young doctor fighting a smallpox epidemic in the Cape. Jennifer McVeigh¿s writing is exceptional and she guides you through the desolate, but spectacular landscape of late nineteenth century South Africa with ease. You are there with Frances as she wrestles with her emotions and tries to reconcile her passion for one man and the kindness shown to her by Edwin, a man she does not love. I wholeheartedly recommend ¿The Fever Tree¿ and it would certainly make a great book club novel as there many facets to this novel¿ is ripe for discussion.This book was made available to me, prior to publication, for an honest review.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Needs to be a movie based on this book
    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
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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