The Fever Tree
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.
Praise For The Fever Tree…
“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
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 9780425264911, 464pp.
Publication Date: February 4, 2014
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
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.