“Domesticated plants—monstrosities, you called them. They grew in a controlled environment, protected, mollycoddled, grafted onto the stronger roots of other plants so they could survive; deviations from their true form in nature. They might be highly decorative, you said, bred for dazzling colors, but essentially they were monstrosities.” She was speaking faster now, the logic of her words gathering force as she spoke. “I asked you—do you remember—what would happen to the if they were left to grow wild. Whether they could survive?” (p. 385)
I suppose one of the reasons I accepted The Fever Tree for review was because Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey, said he loved it. But I kept reading of South Africa, all this snowy day in the Midwest, because the story completely drew me in.
The novel has been compared to Out of Africa, and that would be an obvious choice. But, it is an unimaginative comparison. To me, the story more closely resembles A Painted Veil, in that a young English woman agrees to marry a man she does not love, and shortly thereafter is completely seduced by another. Edwin Matthews, her fiancé, is a fine man. He quarantines and vaccinates people in South Africa, trying his best to see that those working in the diamond mines are cared for. Yet Frances cannot see his honorable qualities for the boredom she feels in comparison to the other man’s touch.
This could have been a romantic novel, with nothing to claim beyond erotically charged encounters and passionate embraces. But the lessons learned, and the setting in which it takes place, carries this novel to other heights. I was drawn in by the story; I was uplifted by the polishing of character which takes place right alongside the cultivating of the diamonds.
If you’d like to be considered for the give-away (publishers say US only, please), simply leave a comment below. I will announce the winner one week from today.