Leopard At The Door by Jennifer McVeigh


Published by Penguin, 13th July 2017, 345 pages, £7.99

3 stars

I spent the last week in Kenya. It was 1952, political unrest had taken a vicious turn and the young Queen Elizabeth is soon to be crowned. Eighteen year old Rachel returns to the country after spending six years in England during the wake of her mother’s death. Turning her back on this life, which included a stifling boarding school, cold nights at her grandparents and meager rationing, she looks towards her real home with a tentative, but relieved heart. Her father, who remained in Kenya, kept very little contact whilst she was away and she hopes to reunite with him and revive memories of her mother. However, on her arrival he remains distant and is living with an unlikable woman and her quiet son.

This was my first time reading Jennifer McVeigh’s work, recommended as being a fan of Dinah Jefferies. I think anyone who favours stories about young women negotiating life and love in an exotic setting would enjoy this.  The time I spent with this novel was a warm escape. It started off with a very calming pace, like sun rays settling onto my back. I saw Kenya through Rachel’s young and hopeful eyes, its endless landscape, dusty beauty and rural way of life. As Rachel struggles to reconnect with her father and rebuild her childhood memories, she runs into Michael, a former tutor and local. The intrigue and attraction between the characters was there, but I didn’t feel their romance was full-bodied enough. Michael started as a masculine and intellectual enigma, revealing very little until the end. Their relationship leaned more towards silent acceptance rather than a heady whirlwind.

The slow pace that begins the story almost stagnates in the middle, leaving me wondering if there would be any action. It eventually picks up and speeds towards a dizzying tumble of events. The title ‘Leopard At The Door’,  becomes more apparent towards the later half of the novel.  Danger in multiple forms slink around. The story becomes stabbed with graphic violence (too much for my taste) as the threat of Mau Mau rebels looms closer. Not only this, but the deteriorating relationships in the house and the sadistic nature of the British enforcement close in. The novel also comments on the chilling treatment of women and mental health under Imperial rule and its obsession for sweeping issues under the rug.

The novel ends perhaps too quickly and wraps up with a mixture of unresolved acceptance, sadness and the survival of hope.

Many thanks to Penguin for my review copy xx


2 thoughts on “Leopard At The Door by Jennifer McVeigh

  1. Hallo, Hallo! 🙂

    I am visiting you at long last! My apologies for my absences. When I saw you were reading a McVeigh novel, my interest perked. I wanted to read her debut novel in the worst way, but the timing never felt right to me; it fast became one of my *most borrowed!* books at the library, which in effect made it circulate to more readers; as who knew sometimes just by borrowing a book increases it’s awareness to other readers who might not be as daring to try a book? #LibrariansShareStories

    Ooh my – sometimes those slow moving Roms are harder to tuck into because your constantly starting to question the motives of the characters or if they are emotionally connected to each other. Of course, there are different kinds of relationships & Romance is a open field of interpretation but I definitely understand about loves which come softly. Sometimes they never seem to ignite.

    Ahh.. I classic pacing issue! I struggled with this myself recently (ie. the book I read about Michigan) – where the opening bridge to the novel was bang-on brill but shortly thereafter, my attention started to wan because of how I felt the author might have misunderstood the focus of his story; almost making a cardinal mistake for a reader to withdraw rather than stay invested. This can happen and I do understand your frustration. Pacing is so very critical – not just in films but in books!

    Ooh dear my… this isn’t my cuppa tea at all then! 😦 As this is your first reading of this author I cannot ask if you preferred her first novel instead; but bless you for sharing what was inclusive as those are subjects/visuals I’d be too sensitive as a reader to explore. I walk carefully into stories – sometimes I think books push us too far outside our comfort zones. It’s good to explore past where our cosy comfort zones lie but to full breach what we can tolerant isn’t always advisable in my opinion! So, bless you for your honesty! I appreciate it!!


    1. Hi Jorie, thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts! I actually found out I have a copy of The Fever Tree (from my days as a publishing intern- grabbing too many proofs that I can count ><) so I it's definitely on my TBR list now so I can compare. Yes, this book…I did mean it when I said it was a warm escape, but the pacing almost lost me and the visuals did take a dark turn. xxx


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