Schoolteacher Ellie Hathaway takes a job volunteering at a school in the Central African Republic of Ducana. However, she soon discovers that her time at the school might not be as peaceful as she had hoped, with concern mounting over the school’s headmaster Gabriel Cole. Can Ellie manage to resolve the difficult situation at the school, while also dealing with her own dark past?
The Palaver Tree presents a very vivid depiction of life at the school, and of Ellie’s new environment in Africa. Allied to this is some very strong characterisation, with Ellie herself proving to be an attractive protagonist. Gabriel Cole, meanwhile, is a complex character who defies easy categorisation and who provides much of the intrigue at the heart of the book. Even the most seasoned reader might have a difficult time determining his motivations at first, which helps to create a sense of genuine apprehension as the plot kicks into gear.
Much of the power of this novel comes from following Ellie as she attempts to find the inner strength she needs in order to deal with the situation with which she is faced. Her journey is a steep one, and by the end of the novel she has grown and changed in a number of convincing and affecting ways.
Star rating for The Palaver Tree: 4 stars.
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