The Sound of Butterflies
Reason for reading: I received this book through the HarperCollins First Look program. It will be available October 1 of this year. It was favorably compared to Heart of Darkness which I enjoyed so decided to give it a try.
In the early 1900s, Thomas Edgar takes advantage of an opportunity to travel to Brazil to further his hobby of collecting butterflies. There is rumor of an undocumented butterfly living deep in the Amazon which Thomas hopes will bring him fame and fortune. After searching the Amazon for months he returns home to England unwilling to speak. The horrors he has witnessed in the rainforest have forever changed him and it is left to his wife to unbind his tongue.
The story is told in turns by alternating between Thomas’s time in Brazil and the present in which he has returned mute to England. Of these two narratives, the past in which Thomas searches the Amazon is much more interesting. This is where the author seems to have a better feel for the direction of the novel.
King has set a good tone in the book but breaks the mood several times throughout. At certain points she writes of erotic situations in crude terms that are oddly out of character with the rest of the novel. It is not so much the presence of sexual situations but the way in which they are handled. She also includes a flashback to Thomas’s childhood which interrupts the stories narrative flow. It is not clear why King thought it necessary to include this jaunt back to his past and it is not explored in any depth.
The path the author takes to the end is intriguing but the finish is too rushed. It is not known what has caused Thomas to become silent until the last tenth of the book. This is a bit too late for the situation to feel sufficiently terrible to cause such a drastic reaction in the lead character. This part of the story could have used more fleshing out.
This is Rachael King’s debut novel and at times it is evident as she works to tie the story together without being trite. However, overall the book is a decent first effort. All of the elements needed for a good novel appear, she only need refine her writing and pacing.