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The Dhow House

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  118 ratings  ·  39 reviews
When Rebecca Laurelson, an English doctor, is forced to leave her post in an East African field hospital, she arrives at her aunt's house on the Indian Ocean and is taken into the heart of a family she has never met before. Amongst the all-night beach parties and cocktail receptions, her attraction for her much younger cousin grows.

But the gilded lives of her aunt Julia's
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 15th 2016 by Legends Press
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I really struggled with this one.  

Rebecca Laurelson is an English Doctor  serving at an East African field hospital. where there is conflict from Islamist terrorists.   When Rebecca is forced to leave this post for reasons that are not made clear, but lead the reader to believe are relevant to the unrest in the country, she arrives at the home of her Aunt on the coast of the Indian Ocean.  

Now Rebecca does not really know her aunt Julia who none the less welcomes her into her home.  The descrip
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, netgalley, africa, 2017

Rebecca Laurelson is an English trauma surgeon working in a field hospital in east Africa, but she needed to leave. A vacation – of sorts. At the hospital, she’s seen it all, and perhaps there is a time when one has seen too much, endured too much of the worst that can happen.

And so Rebecca finds herself swept into the home of her Aunt Julia, her mother’s sister, and Uncle, their son Storm, and eventually their daughter. Her Aunt Julia’s family lives in Tanzania, at Kilindoni
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arcs
The Dhow House was more 3.5 stars overall rounded up to 4 stars due to the descriptive writing and the research on birds. There were aspects of this story that I absolutely loved, including many of the descriptions of the settings. The Dhow House itself was beautifully depicted. Much of the writing was very good, literary prose, and the plot was interesting. However, I got a little lost during the narrative at times and went back to re-read things, which took away some from my enjoyment. I would ...more
Sep 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
Of Jean McNeil's The Dhow House, Giles Foden writes 'This exotic novel handles large themes with assurance, tact and knowledge'. The Observer have deemed her debut novel, which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writer's Prize, 'almost overwhelmingly vivid', and the Times Literary Supplement herald it 'striking for its vigour, wit and thoughtfulness'. Its own blurb states that The Dhow House is a 'seductive, fast-paced tale of lust, power and corruption', as well as 'forbidden love in a dark t ...more
Heather Fineisen
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
This was a very descriptive read when it came to the setting and the natural habitat of wildlife. One of the main characters, or the main character, Rebecca, is soon to sit for her bird watching guide exam so there is an over abundance of descriptions about all types of birds. Unfortunately, the story fails to be as informative concerning the plot. I found myself backtracking at points thinking I had missed some but these were holes that may or may not be filled later on. Using a narrative that ...more
Joy Clark
Sep 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley-arc, 2016
This could have been so much better. The premise is intriguing - a British surgeon travels to an unnamed East African country to treat both sides of an ongoing ethnic and religious conflict. She is pulled out of her post (We don't know why until the end) and ends up spending two months on the coast of the same country with a part of her family she has never known. Lots of secrets, suspense, and inner turmoil. Unfortunately, the execution was lacking for me. The narrative jumped around, choppy an ...more
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
This one just didn’t quite work for me. The premise is certainly an interesting and topical one, but I never managed to engage with any of the characters, especially not with the main protagonist, an English doctor Rebecca Laurelson, who goes to visit her aunt and family in Tanzania after being forced to leave her post in a field hospital in an unnamed country in East Africa for some obscure reason. She’s welcomed into the family, although she hasn’t met any of them before, but these are dangero ...more
Sameer Chandra
Aug 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Visit for more of my reviews!

eARC provided by Netgalley and Legend Press in exchange for an honest review.

To be honest, I picked up this book randomly from the Netgalley Catalog. But, I am glad that I did.

The Dhow House is a novel which encompasses a wide range of themes like terrorism and many other current scenarios which are being overlooked.

The story revolves around Rebecca Laurelson, an English doctor , who is forced to leave her post in
Sep 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Jean McNeil is a prolific fiction and non-fiction author. The Dhow is Jean's seventh publication. The Dhow house is a novel about forbidden passion and terrorism on the Indian ocean coast of east Africa. The majority of place names in this novel do not exist. The names for ethnicities and political factions are also fictitious. However, the bird, animal and tree species named are generally those found in coastal or upland East Africa. The story of a once privileged family, its passion, safeties ...more
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
I really struggled with this book. Without a doubt, it is beautifully written and has descriptive pieces that are well crafted with a highly developed attention to detail. But... and it's a big but, I hardly cared about the self-absorbed main character, Rebecca, or her extended family and the plot did very little to grab my attention. Jean McNeil is an accomplished writer but I just didn't get the impression she cared enough either to get into her characters' motivations and passions. Slow going ...more
Elizabeth Grieve
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned-arc
I'm afraid this was not for me. After giving up and then returning a week later, I still could not get into it. The descriptive prose was a bit too flowery, and the characters a bit too flat, and it did not appeal.

A preview copy was provided by the publisher.
Daniella Armstrong
Dec 01, 2016 rated it did not like it

Though I've enjoyed previous Legend Press titles, this one was not up my alley.
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Dhow House by Canadian writer Jean McNeil is a beautifully written and unusual book. Unfortunately, I'm still not sure what its purpose was or whether I actually understood any of it. However, I was definitely fascinated by it and enjoyed reading it. The descriptions of East Africa alone are worth it.

The protagonist, Rebecca Laurelson, is an English surgeon working in an isolated international aid field hospital somewhere in East Africa. The place names are never defined in the book but a te
Aug 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Thank you to the author and publisher for the advanced e-copy of the book. Overall I did enjoy the story, though I found it a bit slow moving at times. I did experience some confusion with the changing time lines. It was sometimes hard to figure out if the chapter was the present day part of the story or the back story. The Dhow House takes place in a fictional African country where the residents are facing an incursion from the north by an ISIS (Islamic State) type group. Rachel, the main chara ...more
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Jean McNeil is a really talented writer. She has the ability to bring a country to life--in this case an unnamed country in Africa--by describing the fauna, the birds, the wind, the heat, in seemingly effortless lyrical prose, that when she turns to the story itself one feels as if one has awakened from a nap.
Rebecca, a doctor working in an area being attacked by radical Islamists is not just a doctor and when she is attacked she goes to visit her nearby family at The Dhow House-- a mansion name
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Working as a surgeon in east Africa has left Rebecca at low ebb. You would think a nice quiet vacation with her mother’s sister and her family would be just what Rebecca needs to rejuvenate and relax. Memories of her trauma work and the political environment leaves her on edge. A romantic interest in her cousin seems out of place and detracts from dealing with the ugliness terrorism brings. The descriptions of the flora, fauna, and wildlife provided a richness that was lacking in the characters. ...more
Jayne Charles
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
I found the exotic location and the coverage of contemporary issues in this novel compelling, but always seemed to be struggling to stay afloat, plot-wise. Having reached the end I'm still not clear exactly what happened and who (if anyone) was double-crossing who. The writing is cerebral and finely chiselled, but perhaps one for bigger brains than mine.
Debbie Berris
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and learned so much about the spread of radicalism and the lives of whites as the non-ruling class in northeastern coastal Africa. The characters were well-drawn and the flashbacks were effective in developing them. I will read more by this author.
Josee Sigouin
Mar 11, 2017 rated it liked it
What I enjoyed most while reading Jean McNeil’s The Dhow House were the evocative descriptions of places and political situations. Particularly successful was the contrast between the parched field hospital where main protagonist Rebecca Laurelson worked before taking a much needed break with her white African relatives, and the lush Dhow House with its ground floor living room open to the vast vistas of nature and the Indian Ocean. The rich and vivid prose took me to a world I know very little ...more
Oct 06, 2017 rated it liked it
A great premise but a slow read.

Thank you Netgalley for the e-review copy of this book.
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good stories, strong characterization, interesting parts of the world (mostly in Africa), occasionally muddled writing but offset by all of the above.
Shona Tiger
Jul 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Like looking through shattered glass, or hearing discordant notes thrown together.
Arja Salafranca
Sep 02, 2016 rated it liked it
The Dhow House by Jean McNeil
This slow meditative novel takes a long time to get going – as elusive as its protagonist, Rebecca Laurelson, an English doctor, who wavers in and out of view, before the mystery of her presence in Africa is revealed. She is on enforced leave from her position as a doctor in an East African country at war with itself, the tension fanning out even to a peaceful enclave on the coast. It’s here that she takes refuge with long-lost family, an aunt she has only met brief
Kelsi H
Aug 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Please read all of my reviews at!

Rebecca is an English doctor, working at a field hospital in East Africa. She is a surgeon, treating Islamic extremists with the same care and respect as she does for the western soldiers. Because of the conflict in the region – and other circumstances we learn about later – Rebecca is forced to take time off from her work. She travels to her aunt and uncle’s house on the nearby Indian Ocean, where she will rest and recuperate w
Anne Goodwin
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
As an election approaches, and violence in the area escalates, Rebecca’s attraction to her much younger cousin grows and it’s not only the weather that’s hotting up. The Dhow House is a novel of colonialism, hidden passion and terrorism, which brings the spy story into the twenty-first century.
Full review
Sister Sebastian’s Library & The Dhow House
Oct 29, 2016 rated it liked it
I received this book as a firstread prize from goodreads.
To be honest I would never pick this book up for myself, but I am always open to exploring new genres, so i was very ready to like it. Unfortunately I had to struggle through to the end.
Jean McNeil writes beautiful, vivid descriptions of the opposing landscapes in this book which is split between war torn deserts and the African coast. I could see and feel all of these locations that the main character, Rebecca finds herself in, which is a
Martin Turner
Sep 30, 2016 rated it liked it
This is a very intense read set in contemporary Africa in a country where there is severe unrest and the settled white population are made to feel in great danger in their own homes. The story follows a female English doctor working in the field in this country who finds herself visiting relations living there that she did not know she had. There is a secret side to the doctor that gets revealed through the story.
I thought that the book was very well written and very literative. Though the chara
Sep 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Whilst this book is well written, I felt that there was too much description of the surroundings and wildlife and not enough time spent on developing the actual storyline. The subject matter is interesting; Rebecca Laurelson an English Doctor has signed up to treat the injured on both sides of a religious and ethnic conflict in Africa involving Islamic extremists and Western soldiers. She is forced to take leave and decides to visit her Aunt and Uncle who live further down the east coast of Afri ...more
Oct 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaway
Although there were sections of this book I enjoyed overall I found it confusing to read as the story jumps between a number of different times and situations.
The story jumps through different stages of a few years of the main characters life . Rebecca is a doctor who spent some time working in war-torn parts of Africa and while she was there put her life in further danger by agreeing to secretly pass on information to the British secret authorities. Part of the book deals with the lead up to
Julie Ferguson
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read The Dhow House as an ARC.
I found the book a bit of a mystery in the beginning — I wasn't sure what it was about or where it was leading, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I loved the language and engaged with the protagonist, Rebecca, a female trauma surgeon who had worked in war zones in Africa saving lives and under relentless threat. She visited her aunt and family for two months on R&R on the Indian Ocean of Africa where she didn't feel welcome.
The Dhow House is a study of fam
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Jean McNeil is the author of ten books including four novels and a collection of short fiction. Her work has been short-listed for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, the Journey Prize, and she has won the Prism International prize for short fiction and subsequently for narrative non-fiction. She is the co-director of the Masters in Prose Fiction at the University of East Anglia and lives in ...more
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