Great Winter Reads!
Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh
It may be icy and cold here in Chester County but I was transported to sun-drenched Kenya in Jennifer McVeigh’s Leopard at the Door. This nail biter takes place in 1952 as the Mau Mau organize with the intent of uniting the Kenyans and overthrowing the colonial British.
Eighteen-year old Rachel returns to her father at the family farm in Kenya after spending 6 years in boarding school in England after the death of her mother. She expects her idyllic childhood to resume but is quickly caught up in conflict with her father’s new love interest and with the violence between the Kenyans and local colonials.
She steps into further conflict when she begins a relationship with a young Kenyan, something totally forbidden by both cultures.
What makes this more than a trite love story is McVeigh’s skillful exploration of the complexity inherent in colonialism and human rights. The bad guys are really bad (something essential to a great story) but the reader’s challenge is to figure out just who the bad guys really are. Just who is the leopard at the door?
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Transport yourself to the edge of the Russian wilderness where winter lasts the better part of the year. This is a world where families live in harmony with household spirits who protect those within from evil creatures inhabiting the forests. Our heroine, Vasilisa, and her family prosper until Vasilisa’s mother dies and a new stepmother introduces a new priest from Moscow to the community. The old ways are left behind, the household spirits weaken, and evil stalks closer threatening all with destruction. Vasilisa was born with gifts that many see as witchcraft but it is those gifts that ultimately save the community.
I loved the fantasy element to this story – horses talk and fly, household spirits live in the hearth, and seemingly fictional fairy tale characters like Morozko (Jack Frost) display magical powers. This story is colorful and rich with culture like a matryoshka doll.
The Bear and the Nightingale is book one in a trilogy.
One of the things I love about reading is that I can be transported into lives and places I personally have not lived – reading expands my thinking, entertains my senses and broadens my view of the world.
Staff of Wellington Square Book Shop