I adore Africa and am thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations for Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh, especially as it is set in Kenya.
Leopard at the Door is published by Penguin and is available in e-book, hardback and paperback here.
Leopard at the Door
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?
My Review of Leopard at the Door
In 1952, after six years in England Rachel arrives home to Kenya. But it isn’t the Kenya she left.
Leopard at the Door is, quite simply, outstanding.
Within two paragraphs of reading Leopard at the Door I was totally ensnared by Jennifer Mc Veigh’s spellbinding prose. She instantly transported me to the Africa I know and love through fantastic use of the senses to convey the sights and smells that make this such a unique place. The heat, the dirt, the brutality all come through with vivid accuracy.
Leopard at the Door has a mesmerising intensity that made me horrified and enthralled in equal measure. I think I felt every one of Rachel’s emotions as I read. The writing is so intelligent. I can’t believe it’s coincidence that the title refers to a supreme hunter and can be applied to Mau Mau, Steven Lockhart and the creature itself, as well as the way in which the white population has treated the Kenyans in the past. Similarly, the fact that Rachel means ewe or lamb, and innocent purity, had me anxious for her welfare from the very first page.
The characterisation is wonderful. It felt absolutely right that both Sara and Steven’s names begin with an evil sibilance as they impact so negatively on Rachel’s life. My heart contracted with pity for Harold but it was Rachel herself who completely enchanted me. Her grief for her mother, her lost childhood and the events that happen as the magnificent plot unfolds absolutely overtook my life as I read.
Meticulously researched, the political events of the novel taught me so much so that I feel I have a far better understanding of Kenya both then and now. However, Jennifer Mc Veigh manages to present those events inextricably wound into realistic, everyday lives of ordinary people through her beautiful prose.
Leopard at the Door is simultaneously disturbing and enthralling and my life has been enriched by reading it. I adored it.
About Jennifer McVeigh
Jennifer graduated from Oxford University in 2002 with a degree in English Literature. She went on to work in film, television, radio and publishing, before leaving her day job to do an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. She graduated in 2011.
She has travelled in wilderness areas of East Africa and Southern Africa, often in off-road vehicles, driving and camping along the way. The Fever Tree and Leopard at the Door were inspired by those experiences.
In 2014 The Fever Tree won the Epic Novel Category at the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards.