I was totally drawn into the book The Butterfly Garden by the description on Amazon and one of the things I really enjoyed about it was that I was hooked right from the get go. It was immediately into the story without hesitation and pretty much that was it, I was hooked. Totally. That’s a rare occasion that happens.
The Butterfly Garden is about a man called the Gardener whose fascination with the beauty of butterflies leads him to some far from acceptable behaviour to say the least. He has created a garden prison where he acquires butterflies, which are actually young ladies who he keeps trapped there. He names them and gives them a butterfly tattoo on their back, sometimes on their face (for good behaviour).
Yes it is dark, very dark and touches on some very uncomfortable themes because as one can imagine, there are some instincts which arise in the Gardener which he inflicts on the butterflies against their will. He gets the most out of the young beauty around him.
The main character, Inara, is a mysterious enigma, weaving stories of her past in a police interview room after having escaped from the Garden. You know quickly that she is hiding something from the police, to the point where you suspect that she may even have had something to do with it all.
What she is hiding is kept secret until the end of course, and I read a lot of reviews across Goodreads and Amazon about the ending. That the ending was a huge let down, that it was weak, but here’s my take on it. It’s not a hugely climactic ending as Inara reveals the entire truth about why she has been dancing around questions.
Her reasoning makes sense, there is logic to it, but perhaps it isn’t really strong enough of a reason to have had her act so elusive. The reasoning is based on loyalty, but it may be perceived as a bit of a stretch by readers.
But other than that, if you put that aside, from start to finish, Inara’s description of the time in the Garden is simply gripping and it is well worth a read just because of that. It explores human emotions (and a lack thereof, having to shut them down to survive a brutal existence) and with the butterflies expiring at the age of 21 so that the Gardener can preserve their beauty in formaldehyde and display them, it makes you think about the finite nature of our lives, even more so in having a defined expiration time.
The style of the book, present tense, is done so well and it adds to the atmosphere and pace of the entire read. I flew through this book because I just kept wanting more out of Inara’s tale. I wanted her to get to the point where the Gardener (and his son) got their comeuppance. Going back to the ending that wasn’t hugely climactic. It’s not that it wasn’t dramatic, the fall of the Garden was good, but none of the butterflies ever get the type of revenge that you would expect them all to be craving by that point.
But I liked that. I liked the realism of that, that justice isn’t always prevailing itself. Some of the butterflies escape, that’s not a spoiler, you will get that by the fact that Inara is sat in a police interview room at the start talking about it. It is a beautifully flowing, dancing tale of darkness and the disregard of human life and how strong some people are through horrendous adversity and the different ways the different personalities cope.
It’s a read I would highly, highly recommend and really look forward to more of what the author, Dot Hutchison, has to offer.