17 July 2019

Review: The Butterfly Room by Lucinda Riley

The Butterfly Room by Lucinda Riley book cover
* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

The Butterfly Room by Lucinda Riley is an historical fiction novel told in dual timelines from multiple character perspectives. It's a multi-generational family saga set in Suffolk and contains several mysteries and a few secrets.

Posy Montague is our main character and we meet her at the age of 70 when she is living in the enormous rundown family estate Admiral House, her adult children having moved away.

One of Posy's sons is an antiques dealer and I really enjoyed the little insight we get into his occupation and business.

As we get to know Posy and changes in her family start to happen, we go back in time to Posy's childhood and her father's service in the war. We get a glimpse of Posy's life at university and how she fell in love and eventually married.

The modern timeline features Posy and her children and their various family goings on, which include domestic themes of: friendship, love, parenthood, career, adultery, divorce, domestic violence and grief.

Coming in at more than 600 pages, The Butterfly Room is a very character-driven novel that moves forward inch by inch, conversation by conversation. This person drives to that house, has a conversation. Next day, this person phones that person, travels up from London etc. What kept me engaged throughout the domestic drama were the two mysteries and the hint of a few family secrets that were worth uncovering. (I managed to correctly guess one of them - which never happens - and incorrectly guess the other, so that surprise was satisfying).

After the 400 page mark I started to pick up on a number of repetitions that proved mildly irritating. The repeated use of phrases of endearment like 'my darling girl' and 'my darling boy' were used by different characters way too frequently. While some originated from the same family members - thereby somewhat understandable and thereby excusable - others weren't.

I also noticed that many of the characters had a habit of talking to themselves aloud in full sentences. These sentences were printed with the use of dialogue punctuation which seemed strange and while I can believe one character might do this, I couldn't believe that many characters would possess this personality trait.

When it comes to the title, I'm not quite sure The Butterfly Room was the best title for this generational family saga. A butterfly room does feature in the novel, but it could be perceived as a teaser or a spoiler. I'd have preferred a title capturing the magnificent property that unites all of the characters, that of Admiral House. Riley did a wonderful job of evoking the gardens and property in a way that really made it come to life and was the star of the novel for me.

Recommended for fans of historical fiction, family sagas and romance at all stages of life. Fans of Kate Morton, Hannah Richell, Anna Romer and Sarah Maine will feel at home with Lucinda Riley's The Butterfly Room.

My Rating:

Would you like to comment?

  1. Sounds like I might find it a touch slow, thanks for sharing your thoughts

    1. Thanks ShelleyRae, plenty of other readers are giving this 4 and 5 stars, so it could just be me.

  2. Sounds like this needed some better editing and some cutting down. I'm wary of very long books, especially by authors who have published many books. I think that sometimes the editors worry that if they don't give the public every word that the author writes, they'll lose sales. I think that's what happened with the Harry Potter books - they kept getting longer and longer, and I started skimming and skimming until I gave up. Same thing with John Irving after "A Prayer for Owen Meany". Not a good look, if you ask me. She'll lose readers this way.

    1. You make an interesting observation Davida. Not sure if that happened here or not, but it definitely happens within the publishing industry. I don't mind a chunkster of a book if it keeps me engaged the entire time without any dead spots (Ken Follett comes to mind). This is my first time reading a book by Lucinda Riley so perhaps the domestic saga wasn't my style. It was still a 'good read' though and three stars.


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