Author: Jennifer McVeigh
Provided Synopsis: 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.
Review: Despite the negative feedback that I have seen about this book on Goodreads, I have come to the conclusion that I liked this story. The main complaint that I have seen has mainly concerned the main character, Frances Irvine. Since she has grown up in a life of privilege in England, the reversal of her fortunes hits her hard. Suddenly, she has a choice to make: she must either go to her aunt in Manchester to essentially work as a servant, or marry a young doctor with a practice in South Africa; Frances decides to go with the latter option. On the boat to South Africa she meets and falls in love with a handsome gentlemen named William Westbrook. Their affair on the ship never leaves her mind, even after she marries Edwin Matthews and embarks on a life as his wife.
Unlike Frances, Edwin is full of passion for his clients, nature, the natives of South Africa, and the vaccination of everyone against smallpox. Rather than see him for the good and honorable man that he is, Frances remains in love with William and unable to see. Throughout the story she is unable to see the facts that are before her eyes. She continues to act like a child, filled with ignorance towards the people she worships and the hardships of the South African lifestyle. At times, her ignorance made this book a difficult thing to read, especially since the reader is so clearly able to see the injustices that the British have inflicted upon the natives in the search for diamonds. To the author’s credit, though, she allows Frances to be stuck in her mindset and uncover the truth on her own. The growth of her as a character was good to see – but you only wish that it had not taken so long.
If you have an interest in the pursuit of diamonds in South Africa during the 1880s, along with the disease and mistreatment that was brought down upon the landscape, then this would be a book for you. I learned so much, and the author did a wonderful job of bringing this environment to life.