Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh

Stepping off the boat in Mombasa, eighteen-year-old Rachel Fullsmith stands on Kenyan soil for the first time in six years. She has come home.
But when Rachel reaches the family farm at the end of the dusty Rift Valley Road, she finds so much has changed. Her beloved father has moved his new partner and her son into the family home. She hears menacing rumours of Mau Mau violence, and witnesses cruel reprisals by British soldiers. Even Michael, the handsome Kikuyu boy from her childhood, has started to look at her differently. 
Isolated and conflicted, Rachel fears for her future. But when home is no longer a place of safety and belonging, where do you go, and who do you turn to?

I could feel Rachel's euphoria at being back on African soil,the land of her birth. Six years ago when she was twelve her father sent her to a boarding school in England after her mother died. 
Bereft for the loss of her mother,never seeing her father and being away from her beloved Africa Rachel has longed for the day she could return home even if it is against her father's wishes.

Her father's new partner Sara is not welcoming and she is the opposite of Rachel's mother especially in the way she talks to the African servants. Her father has changed too he is very distant and tries too hard to please Sarah. 

It's 1952 and Africa is in a state of unrest. The Mau Mau are raiding Bristish owned farms and slaughtering the landowners. Many Africans are also being killed by them if they refuse to take an oath promising to kill the British. The cruelty was hard to read about. Slaughtering by the Mau Mau farm by farm, village by village continued to escalate through the book. In retaliation the British soldiers were every bit as cruel and inhumane towards the Africans who were treated as sub human.

I was so scared for Rachel,I wanted her to run back to England and safety. I felt the injustice of the African people, living in squalor and being exploited by the British.
The life that Rachel remembers is no more and it's only a matter of time before her family will be in grave danger. 
Halfway through the book the tension was so great I just couldn't put it down. So much was happening that I was always leaving it on a cliffhanger. This will definitely be one of my books of this year.
The sights,sounds and smells of Africa as described in the book could only come from someone who knows and loves the country. I was transported there by every page. I was worried for Rahel as she wandered around the farm and fished in the river. Were the lions, buffalo or leopards watching her? Was she safe? Actually she had more to worry about from her fellow man and woman than any wild animal as you will find out in the book.
This book came to be because of a suitcase given to the author by a friend of her father. It was old and dusty and contained letters,documents and photographs from Kenya in the 1950's. Jennifer knew these were important to the owner and knew she had to do something with them and hence the story started taking root and growing in her head. I for one know that she has done great justice to the contents of that suitcase. Don't miss this book.


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