“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.
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.
A Page Turner!
I read this book greedily. It started out rather slowly but once the pace picked up, I couldn’t put it down. I learned a great deal about South Africa, the diamond trade, and the Boers. It reminded me a bit of The Painted Veil, with a bit of The English Patient, and Gone With the Wind thrown in for good measure. The story tells of the hardships and suffering endured by many compounded by the avarice, insensitivity, and prejudice of others. I hope to read more historical fiction from this author. 👍🏻
Enthralled the whole time
I couldn't put this book down. I lived and felt a lot of Frances' emotions and hardships. I was mad, sad, in love, and desperate throughout the book. The characters were brought to life in an almost non-fictional way. I hope to see more written by Jennifer McVeigh soon! Best read for me in a long while!
Against the back-drop of small-pox and English exploitation of African diamond mining, you'd think the author would've developed a native African character, especially after she reveals in the author notes that this novel is her response to the cruel greed and disparity of that time. Shallow story of a spoiled English girl and self righteous English boy-both with horrible communication skills.