Published by Viking on May 19th 2017
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?
Jennifer McVeigh’s LEOPARD AT THE DOOR is one of those books whose writing can be simply described as lush. Her ability to sweep the reader away to a foreign land and immerse them in a culture as if they themselves are standing on dusty roads in the heart of Africa, listening to the sounds of nature in the birthplace of humanity is startling and brilliant.
LEOPARD AT THE DOOR tells the story of Rachel Fullsmith, who at the age of eighteen is returning to her homeplace in Africa after spending her teenage years being educated in England. The Kenya she left is a very different place to the one in existence now. Rumblings of an uprising against the European settlers is becoming more and more a reality and is the backdrop for a fraught reunion between Rachel and her father. In the years that have passed since the death of her mother and her exile to England, Rachel’s father has all but erased any remnants of their old lives and has a new partner living on the ranch with him. As Rachel adjusts to her new reality, the African culture and way of life she loved and knew as a child is imploding and Rachel is confronted with the sins of the settlers and the desire of the African natives to reclaim their rightful ownership of their land.
Each character is wonderfully developed with care and precision and Rachel’s interactions particularly with her new stepmother Sara and British Officer Stephen are deliciously tense and enjoyable to experience. Rachel’s struggle with reconciling the past with the present is a clear theme throughout the book and explored exceptionally well by McVeigh. The descriptions of Africa in the 50s are fantastic and I really felt like I was right there in the thick of it, the searing heat pounding down on the back of my neck as I walked in step with Rachel throughout her journey.
LEOPARD AT THE DOOR is a beautifully crafted novel, atmospheric and engaging with a pace that never falters. Definitely one to pack for the Summer holidays!