I knew from early on that I was going to struggle to finish The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh. The first chapters did not immediately draw me in, but I decided to be patient and give it some more time. After about a hundred pages in, I finally felt that I would at least be able to finish the book, even if it did take me longer than anticipated. What I was not expecting was that I would up and quit reading at page 359—with somewhere around sixty or so pages left to go.
The Fever Tree deals with some heavy situations, such as the heroine marrying a man she doesn’t know or love, trying to make a life in South Africa with nearly no money, and the greed that overcomes man when riches are within grasp. It is a haunting, emotional book and I just wasn’t able to handle it any longer.
Much of my early struggle with the book revolved around Frances, a young woman who is left with nothing after the death of her father. She marries an idealistic man named Edwin, and while she is on a ship to meet her future husband, she gives herself completely in body and heart to William. At first, William seems like a way for her to escape her new life, but William is on another path, and Frances must go through with her marriage to Edwin.
In my opinion, Frances is a weak heroine. She is naïve and selfish, and doesn’t learn how to do anything for herself. There were a few instances where I pitied her, but overall I found her to be just plain unlikable. I do admit there were moments were I felt a soft spot for her, such as when she stopped a baby zebra from being slaughtered and took him in as a pet.
And that leads into my next issue with the book. I do not handle any sort of animal scenes involving abuse, death, or slaughter well at all. I always grow attached to the animals in books and movies, and I cry harder for them than humans. I don’t know why this is, but that’s just how I’m wired. Whenever possible, I like to know if “bad animal stuff” is going to happen because that may change my mind about reading/see a book/movie. I really, really, really wish I’d known with this book; I would have skipped it and been much happier for it.
To McVeigh’s credit, she is a talented writer. She vividly depicts what life would have been like for someone in Frances’s situation. Unfortunately, not every reader can stomach some of the situations that McVeigh chose to write about. I wish her luck in finding the right audience for this book, and regret that I could not appreciate this book the way it was meant to be read.
Just because I didn’t like this book doesn’t mean that you will not. If the summary sounds interesting to you and like something you’d love, don’t hesitate to enter!