The Dhow House

McNeil, Jean

  • A lushly imagined novel that asks, “When do we ever really know ourselves?”

    When Rebecca Laurelson is forced to leave her post as a trauma surgeon 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. It’s a world of all-night beach parties and constant cocktail receptions, and within its languorous embrace her attraction for her much younger cousin grows.

    But the gilded lives of her aunt Julia’s family and their fellow white Africans on the coast are under threat — Islamist terror attacks are on the rise and Rebecca knows more about this violence than she is prepared to reveal. Will she be able to save her newfound family from the violence that encroaches on their seductive lives? Or, amidst growing unrest, will the true reason for her hasty exit from her posting be unmasked? Rebecca finds herself torn between the family she hardly knows and a past she dares not divulge.


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  • Jean McNeil has written ten books, including five novels. She has twice been the winner of the PRISM International competition, and her work has been shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Journey Prize, the National Magazine awards, and the Pushcart Prize. She is co-director of the Masters in Prose Fiction at the University of East Anglia. Originally from Nova Scotia, she has lived and travelled extensively in southern and east Africa and lives in London, England.

  • Published: April 2017

    ISBN: 9781770413498

    Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 in.

    Pages: 328


“Jean McNeil’s latest is a completely absorbing, eminently readable — to the point of being almost unputdownable — complex, cleverly crafted work, principally about loyalty: what we owe to our country, our relatives, those we love and those who simply cross our path. You won’t read many better novels this year.” — Daily Mail

“With dreamlike prose and an intriguing protagonist, fiction- and travel-writer McNeil (Ice Diaries, 2016) builds momentum to her novel’s surprising final chapters . . . McNeil’s storytelling will pull [readers] in and captivate them to the end.” — Booklist

“Compulsively readable . . An accomplished travel writer who has been drawn to outposts as remote as Antarctica, McNeil writes descriptions that shimmer. . . We learn the cause of Rebecca’s trauma in a scene so brutal and eloquent I reread it several times, astonished and awed.” — New York Times Book Review

“The sixth novel from Nova Scotia-born writer Jean McNeil brings us a beautiful story about tangled loyalties, self-discovery and the threat of change. . . . Her true gift shows in her ability to create deep and complicated characters.” — Winnipeg Free Press

“Like the landscape she depicts, McNeil’s prose combines poetic grace with shadows of menace: behind every flowering bush or luxurious shrub there may be an exotic bird or a poisonous snake — or an armed marauder. The effect is both gripping and unsettling.” — Quill & Quire

“Jean McNeil is one of those authors that can bring clarity to the human experience in a single, illuminating sentence.” — I am Writer Hear Me Roar blog

“A sparkling new novel. . . . Filled with bird lore, the novel features McNeil's exquisite prose.” — Owen Sound Sun-Times

“The great joy in The Dhow House, [McNeil's] eleventh book, is her exceptional ability to illuminate setting and the natural world. . . McNeil's writing is as lush and vivid as the changing hues of the Indian Ocean. . . the sense of place and insight into the mysterious inclinations of the heart linger long after the last page.” — Toronto Star