Having drawn comparisons to Gone with the Wind and Out of Africa, The Fever Tree is a pause resistor of the very first order.
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 then 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.
©2013 Jennifer McVeigh (P)2013 Penguin Audio
A childhood of pampered luxury does not prepare Frances to be left penniless and friendless on the death of her father after his business fails. In desperation, she marries a young man whom she despises. This man brings her to South Africa, where he is trying to build a medical practice. We are now in the milieu of the 19th c. diamond boom, in which unscrupulous white men exploited the Africans without mercy. Just as Frances begins to make some tentative steps towards contentment in her new life, her husband is transferred from a field station where he inoculates people against small pox to the city of Kimberly, a rough town built up around a huge open pit where the workers are beaten, tortured, and routinely crushed in the unsafe mining conditions. To Frances' dismay, her husband is an outspoken critic of the mine-owners' corrupt treatment of workers. His speeches and articles put both of them at risk for their lives.At this point, Frances makes the disastrous decision to reach out to a man with whom she had an affair on the boat from England. Readers recognize this man as a stinker through and through, but Frances' characterization is done with such skill that we understand and almost sympathize with her.This is a good story, a vivid historical novel, and a fun romantic narrative. It is not among the very great historical novels like Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies, but it is thoroughly entertaining and interesting, especially in its evocation of mining in South Africa. The narration is absolutely terrific.
I should just add that some of the love scenes are fairly explicit.
I would only recommend this to someone who has a particular interest in the history of the time and in conditions in the diamond mines of South Africa. The setting and discriptions of Africa were quite vivid, and the history obviously well researched. But, the characters were self-absorbed to a fault, and the story had many slow sections, then rushed to a neat but unrealistic ending.
That's the main drawback of this story. No one was very likable. Some characters were more unpleasant than others, but all of the main characters seemed self-absorbed in their respective ways. It was difficult to feel sympathy anyone.
I enjoyed this performance and would listen to another book read by this performer.
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