Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dying Under the Palaver Tree

Often times we do things for others - go to a movie, see a television show, read a book - that we don't expect to enjoy because it isn't really our cup of tea. When we find out that we not only liked but loved it, that movie, show, or book becomes a little gem; a gem that brightens our friendship and our lives.  The book, movie, or show doesn't have to be 5 star. The very fact that it surprised and delighted us is enough. Sometimes we are so delighted that we want to share with others, so they, too, can be happily surprised. Wendy Unsworth's novel "The Palaver Tree" is just that sort of gem - a book so good, I have already shared it with personal friends and am sharing it with you, too!

The Palaver Tree
Suspense and more!
The Pavaler Tree
By Wendy Unsworth
  • Paperback: 366 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1477655549
  • ISBN-13: 978-147765554
From Amazon:
Lives and fortunes change in the blink of an eye.
Now that she is alone, volunteering at a school in the Central African Republic of Ducana seems like everything schoolteacher Ellie Hathaway needs. Here is the opportunity to get away from the sleepy Cornish village where recent tragedy still haunts her and to help the children's charity her friend has worked so tirelessly to promote.
But dark forces and ambitions are in play long before Ellie's arrival in the dusty town of Limba. Even as she begins to believe she can at last find true happiness, she realises that something at the school is very wrong. 
Is this really the place of loving and giving she had first thought it to be, and is headmaster, Gabriel Cole, really their guardian angel?
With so many questions left unanswered Ellie struggles to decide what she must do, but then political chaos descends and suddenly Ellie finds herself more alone than she had ever imagined she could be....

About the book:
Ellie's life in her quiet Cornish village is turned upside down by an unexpected tragedy but her best friend, Diane, is always supportive, encouraging her. When tragedy strikes a second time, Ellie needs more.  Diane has been throwing fundraising parties for Gabriel Cole, headmaster of a school in Africa serving poor children. Her chance comes when Gabriel makes her an offer to be a teacher at his school. While Diane has reservations about Ellie traveling all the way to Africa and some reservations about Gabriel, shame keeps her from speaking her mind.
Slowly this tale of abuse opens as we find out just what kind of man Gabriel is. Ellie finds herself in a country about to explode in violence with no way out.

My take:
   The book starts out with a riveting Prologue which is a must read.  Then the story turns to the Cornish village where we meet Ellie and Diane. It is almost like the story is a separate tale but rest assured, it takes a turn quickly enough and by the end of the first 1/10 of the book, the reader is on the edge of their seat waiting for evil to spring forth. I love how Unsworth keeps the tension high even through the most benign of scenes.
    The story, told through the eyes of four women, does a magnificent job of giving just enough information to keep the reader in terrified suspense. Like an old movie where the young girl searches a dark house, this story keeps you jumping as it slowly turns every corner and each woman adds to the mystery and underlying terror.
    The ending, though not what one might wish for, is indeed perfect in its resurrection of balance and order.
   Unsworth is excellent at creating scenes and her characters are both interesting and engaging. The silences on each woman's part, necessary to give life to the story, are fully believable and may have a reader thinking, "But for the Grace..."
     The writing is clear and crisp, however does lack some editing through the last third of the book.  But don't let that scare you away from this intense read because if you do, you will miss a great little book covering a type of abuse we rarely have the opportunity to explore.

My recommendation:
   An excellent read for anyone who likes suspense though scenes may be too intense for some teenage readers. Has some casual sexuality and intense violence.