Who is growling?

Leopard at the Door Book Cover Leopard at the Door
Jennifer McVeigh
history, literary fiction, romance
Viking
April 18, 2017
336

"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 she reaches the family farm at the end of the dusty Rift Valley Road, Rachel finds that much has changed. Her father has moved his new lover and her strange son into the family home. And Michael, the handsome Kikuyu boy from her childhood, has started to look at her differently. When rumours of violence between the Mau Mau freedom fighters and British soldiers start to grow, Rachel is faced with a terrible dilemma. Can she be her father's daughter, and be true to herself? And what if choosing one means losing the other?"

This is a disturbing tale of innocence under fire. When the colonialists lived their privileged life in Kenya, to their children the life seemed idyllic. The land was fertile. Their parents were rich and lived a life where there was plenty of leisure activities. They had servants and lived in an exotic country where they had freedom and the opportunity to see animals that were normally in zoos, living wild.

They were protected from politics and the harsh realities of life for the non-white population. They truly believed that the land had been empty before they arrived and that they were civilising the ‘natives’ and anyway, the natives loved them.

They were unaware that Kenya had had a flourishing civilisation in the 13th century which had traded across the world including China and Italy. They only saw the current nomads and disparate tribes and languages and made assumptions.

But by the 1950s  the Kikuyu people of central Kenya, wanted their land back. And the Mau Mau was born, its rallying cry the cough of the leopard.

This book takes through this disturbing era of history through the eyes of Rachel, who is 18 when the book starts, and who is returning from a very cold and unlovely schooling in the UK to her home as she believes. We learn of the strikes and the behaviour of the British officials as she discovers them and through her friendship with native Kenyans learns about the Mau Mau and what they have done and why.

Well written and graphic though it is, we need to read about the reality of our legacy and history as Britain began to lose control of its colonies, and the men who were in charge of them.

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