THE NEWLYWEDS by Nell Freudenberger
THE FEVER TREE by Jennifer McVeigh

I accidentally read two books back to back with similar themes. Both books are about women who leave their home country and move to another country for love and marriage. But that is all they have in common, other than being great reads.

In THE NEWLYWEDS, Amina and George meet online on a dating site and begin a long distance relationship. Amina lives in Bangladesh and George is from New York. Their relationship grows and once they have met each other, they decide to get married. Amina moves to America and we see her adjust to this brand new life, facing the many cultural differences. But George has not been completely honest about his past and she has not told him how much she wants and expects her parents to move to New York to live with them.

Good drama always has poor communication, if everyone shared their feelings in a novel, the book would be very dull. Part of the novel takes place in New York and the second half is in Bangladesh, as Amina comes “home” to bring her parents back to America. This is when you vividly see how different life is in these two countries and Amina also confronts some doubts about her marriage. There is lots of tension, friction and humor in this novel, and I was glued to this story. The strength of this novel is the character of Amina and how she deals with a variety of challenges. We don’t really know if we want this marriage to succeed, but we are definitely rooting for Amina.

I then began THE FEVER TREE and went to an entirely different world. It is the 1880’s in England and Frances has a big decision to make…does she stay in England and become a servant to her aunt or does she accept a marriage proposal from a man she does not like and move to South Africa? Her father has just died and left her penniless and Frances has very few options. She decides to go to South Africa and there she is shocked at the living conditions for herself and for others.

The problem for Frances is that she loves another man but must marry the doctor that her father had chosen for her. Another big problem is that Frances does not know how to do anything except play the piano and look pretty. In South Africa she gets an education about the rights of the workers at the diamond mines, the rugged wild life and basically, about herself. Her lack of self-knowledge is a big gap in her life and this drives her to make poor choices.

One of the strengths of this novel is South Africa. There are so many things that I did not know, especially about the diamond trade, the rough land and weather, the small pox epidemic and the treatment of the native people. There is also the connection between the Dutch and South Africans, which was really interesting for me to read. This is quite an adventure story about a poor spoiled rich girl who has to grow up and it is so entertaining to see her face her true self. It has all the elements of great drama and I got caught up in the high adventure, and even, romance. It was pure luck to have read these together and even though they were different, they still had some common ground.

What I am currently reading: BOSSYPANTS by Tina Fey. This is funny, charming and loads of fun…but what do you expect from Tina Fey? She just proves, once again, how truly talented she is and that she has much to say.

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  • Shers Gallagher  On June 7, 2013 at 7:58 am

    My gosh but you do read a lot, Jane. I’m impressed. After disappointedly reading Jonathan Franzen’s ‘The Connections’ (in a nutshell it’s about a dysfunctional family dealing with the nightmare of a once figurehead of a father’s progressive Alzheimer’s disease), I began reading Paul Britton’s ‘The Jigsaw Man’. Though it’s about forensic psychology and mental intrigue more than the crime itself, conditions are brutal and I found it a dark read. I moved on to ‘Everything Good Will Come’ by Sefi Atta who wrote about her beloved Nigeria and a young girl’s coming of age.

    Your recent thematic readings are thought provoking, as those of us who have immigrated for whatever reason well know that it’s not as easy as we first thought. Much disillusionment there, as well as getting to know the varied aspects of one’s self in so many different scenarios.

    As a recent transplant you may have heard of ‘Tulip Fever’ by Deborah Moggach. It’s quite a popular and entertaining historical fiction about the tulip mania of 17th century Amsterdam. My all-time favourite of the period, however, is David Liss’s ‘The Coffee Trader’, a tale told from a different perspective about a down on his luck commodities trader involved in the Amsterdam stock exchange.

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