The Butterfly Summer by Harriet Evans

    The Butterfly Summer is a family saga which gives us the stories of different female members of the Parr family through the generations. It concentrates on two in particular: Nina, in the present day and her Grandmother, Theodora, earlier in the twentieth century. The almost forgotten family home of Keepsake is a thread which binds their stories together. Fallen into disrepair, it has a story of its own having been gifted to the females in the Parr family by Charles II. 

    The stories of Theodora and Nina are told in parallel, both in the first person, with only the size of font to denote the different sections. Inevitably given the scope of the book, there are many characters to take on board in both accounts. I found the first part of the book rather slow to get into and I did get impatient when the narrative swapped from Nina to Theodora as there was a lot of family history to get through. I was pleased that I persevered however as the story was in the end, well-crafted and the twist, satisfying.

    Butterflies are a feature of Keepsake and the motif ran throughout the book. This part of the story has obviously been well researched and they add to the house's other worldly, almost magical atmosphere. Keepsake remains largely hidden from the casual passer-by and secrecy and hidden identities are important themes within the book. Elsewhere, outside events are there as a backdrop to the story, but Keepsake remains untouched by them. There are references to the riots which occurred in Britain in 2011 and earlier, the political attempts to avoid the Second World War and the subsequent treatment of the Jewish Community and displaced people. Above all, the unreliable narrators ensure that nothing can be taken at face value.

In short: a complicated family saga with many twists and turns.

Thanks to the publishers, Headline Review for a copy of the book.


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