This week I’ve started a book called The Butterfly House by Marcia Preston.
I’m only about a quarter of the way through this book but I am loving it so far.
It centres around two girls, Roberta – the protagonist, and Cynthia – her friend, and chops between the 1970s when they were children and Roberta’s life in the present, which in terms of the book is the 1990s
This book has re-opened my love of books set in America, something that has been dormant since I was a teenager. I have spent many years reading only books set in England in the 1940s and the present day that the thought struck me today that I can’t actually remember the last book I read that was set in America.
As a teen, I used to read a lot of books set over there about young women making their way in that vast country across the water, but for some reason I seem to have lost this in recent years.
However, some of the setting of this book is in a harsh Canadian winter, and the author describes the landscape and how it makes the protagonist feel in great detail. I found myself almost breathing in the cold air and scrunching through the thick snow along with Roberta, despite never having been to Canada.
I particularly resonated with the way the author describes the protagonist’s anxiety. And as someone who has suffered with this, I completely felt a connection to this flawed and deeply problematic character of the grown Roberta.
The story follows the girls who were best friends as children and both with absent fathers. Roberta’s mother is an alcoholic and Roberta finds solace with her friend Cynthia and her mother. However, as an adult a stranger with a familiar face knocks on the door of the troubled Roberta and forces her to re-examine what happened in her past.
There is a huge contrast between the protagonist’s grown character and child character. The child character, although has issues with her alcoholic mother, appears to be a pretty ordinary a girl. However, the adult character of Roberta is so problematic. There’s talk of her voluntarily putting herself in a sanatorium at some point to cope with life, she scratches at scars on her arms – we aren’t told how they got there, she has huge anxiety issues and doesn’t leave her house often, and she talks of having tried to drown herself at some point.
The mystery involves both Roberta’s and Cynthia’s mothers and something that happened ten years earlier. I suspect the story might unfold as Roberta coming to terms with what happened back then and we find out her secrets as she goes along this journey.
So, until next week, when I’ll update you on what happens in this story, I’m off to find out what Roberta does next…
If you want to read with me, get a copy yourself:
The Butterfly House (Mira)