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Wendy Unsworth was born and raised in Lincolnshire; her passions are her family, travel, beautiful gardens and reading and writing stories. Wendy lived in Ndola, Zambia and Nairobi, Kenya throughout the 1980's and early '90's before returning to the U.K. to acclimatise back to the English weather in a Cornish cottage close to Bodmin Moor! She is currently based in the north west of England. The African continent has left a lasting impression; The Palaver Tree, is set in a fictional Central African country and Cornwall. At present Wendy is working on her second novel, Beneathwood, re-introducing cameo characters from The Palaver Tree and telling their own individual story.
on Aug. 30, 2013 :
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's easily much more than I expected, an epic story that sweeps you along in its wake. Starting in a cozy English village and ending up in the middle of an uprising in Africa, this book is peopled with enough intriguing characters that it will whet your appetite for more. Which is great, since, it turns out, this is only the first in a series on Berriwood village.
I grew to love this book. There is a lot background information on the characters at first, which does slow it down a little, but it all turns out to be necessary details as the story moves along. The author plays fair, dropping enough hints to know what's going wrong and who is responsible, making you feel smarter than the main characters, though, by the end of book, you're wondering why it took them so long to catch on.
The descriptions of the sweeping African and English village landscapes were very authentic and you could feel almost feel the dry, sticky, red dust. The characters are cleverly drawn with flaws as well as strengths, which makes them more interesting, as well as realistic. The ending will leave you gasping and pondering the human condition.
This author was gracious enough to make a free copy of this ebook available to a limited audience and I feel lucky that I had this chance to review it. I will definitely be on the lookout for the next book in the series.
(reviewed 6 days after purchase)
on March 26, 2013 :
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.
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.
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.
(reviewed 52 days after purchase)
on Feb. 17, 2013 :
I was asked to do a review for this book. The story started off kind of slow but it soon picked up. I really enjoyed Ellie, Diane and Tiffany they were great characters. I also loved the mystery of the story. If you are looking for a good Mystery and Suspense story to read I recommend you give The Palaver Tree a try.
(reviewed 13 days after purchase)
on Jan. 18, 2013 :
I received "The Palaver Tree" by Wendy Unsworth in exchange for an honest review. It is probably one of the books submitted to me for a review that I was looking forward to the most. The subject matter of charity work and life in Africa is right up my alley and I have also had several short and long trips to Africa to take even more of an interest. The book follows several women, some in the UK and some in Africa, and their connections with each other. Each of them has their own personal background which Wendy Unsworth builds up carefully and with great detail. It was this set up that made me feel a little restless during the first part of the book when I wanted to know where the story was going. We jump from one character to the next as each story unfolds, which I personally found initially difficult to get used to. However, given the way the lives of the women are connected I could not suggest a better way of handling the plot and the time put into the establishment of the four women really pays off later when the plot accelerates.
Fortunately I soon managed to settle into the flow and got drawn in completely.I don't want to spoil the story by giving too much of the plot away. The school and its student run into a lot of problems, from funding and political troubles to personal dramas of both the students and the teachers.
It is a great insight into the real life of charity work and the many obstacles that can get in the way of good and honest people.
Because we care so much for the main characters we get to experience these issues much deeper than we would from a newspaper article or a TV report.
The writing is smooth and easily flowing, the story is less linear or predictable than my review might suggest and the descriptions of the landscape and life in Africa are beautiful and precious.
This is a great book.
(reviewed 2 days after purchase)
on Nov. 22, 2012 :
I thoroughly enjoyed reading every word. I loved the way the author focuses on each of the characters. It starts off in Africa and immediately takes you back to good works being done in an English village, then whizzes you back into an African country. It is full of intrigues. The storyline is great with lots of twists in the tale. I couldn't put the book down, reading into the early hours of the morning. Very nostalgic for anyone who has lived out in Africa. I have bought several as Christmas presents and look forward to the author's second and subsequent novels.
(reviewed 85 days after purchase)
on Nov. 22, 2012 :
A jolly good read
(reviewed 85 days after purchase)
on Aug. 19, 2012 :
Wendy Unsworth has constructed a well woven novel with believable characters and vivid description. Once half way through, I could not put the book down. The prose and dialogue constantly throw light onto character nuance and motivation, and Unsworth has a knack for well illustrated--and sometimes comical uses--of metaphor. When Ellie takes a volunteership at a school in Africa, she knows it will be a new and exciting challenge. But she can never predict the events culminating in the erupting violence of a political coup. (SEMI SPOILER ALERT) I was a little surprised by the dealings of fate at the conclusion and was hoping for a good old-fashioned police investigation, but then, this is in keeping with the trend of modern protagonists who often take justice into their own hands. Aside from a few very minor blips, I would still give this 5 stars.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on July 11, 2012 :
Ellie Hathaway and Diane Henderson are best friends that share a love for charity work. The Hope Foundation run by Gaberiel Cole seems like a perfect for Ellie after mother's passing. John was in a fatal hit and run accident where there are no leads on who did it. Devastated by both her mother and John's passing, Ellie needs to do something and Gaberiel Cole has just the thing a teaching position in Dunca, Africa. Ellie is excited about her teaching post that will last a year. Meanwhile in the London office of The Hope Foundation, Tiffany works to keep the office running smoothly. Tiffany knows the many moods of Gaberiel Cole and he's clearly unhappy about something but not sure what. Gaberiel acts like Tiffany isn't doing her job good enough. Diane Henderson is keeping two secrets from her husband Neil and she's not sure what to do about either of them. Diane or Di loves hearing about Ellie's work in Dunca. Ellie meets Anna Paxman and Marc Rooyen where she forms deep friendships with both of them. Anna Paxman or Pax shows Ellie around Dunca for good shopping that Hector will not take her too per Gaberiel's orders. Marc helps Ellie fix her garden and pool; there is something building between Marc and Ellie. At the Hope Foundation School, Promise and Suleiman work with the children in separate classes named after fruit such as Mango and Banana. Promise must also work in the office for many hours after school. She hopes that Gaberiel keeps his promise to marry her. Tiffany also hopes that Gaberiel will marry her as planned. Gaberiel Cole is good at making promises to unsuspecting females. Will Di confess her secret? Will Ellie learn the truth about Gaberiel? What about Pax and Marc? Will Tiffany's and Promise's dreams come true? Will Gaberiel be caught? Who is Gaberiel Cole? Your answers await you in The Palaver Tree.
(reviewed 40 days after purchase)