Sunday 8 February 2015

Butterfly by Sonya Hartnett

I've just realised that I've had a butterfly theme going on with my reading this week.

First Euphoria with the butterflies across the cover (see review below), then Butterfly by Hartnett and now, this weekend, I've been browsing through the launch issue of Womankind magazine...with its gorgeous cover of Simone de Beauvoir made from butterflies.

Metamorphosis and fleeting glimpses of life have been the common themes in all three.

In Butterfly we see young 14 yr old Plum Coyle flutter around, trying to find where she belongs and discover her power.

Set in the late 70's, this world is instantly recognisable to me. I get the pop culture references and staright away I'm back there...a not quite 14 yr old too tall, too sensitive and trying not to care.

I wasn't really in the mood for a coming of age story when I picked this one up; and I usually prefer Hartnett's more fable like stories; so I approached it a little reluctantly.

But the thing about Hartnett is that she has a sly and subtle way of getting under my skin.

Even when I'm feeling resisitant or distracted, a few pages into her world & I'm hooked - just like that!

And I soon feel the need to finish her story in one greedy gulp.

Hartnett's stories do not contain a lot of action. The drama is internal and psychological in nature. It's the every day pains and heart aches and vulnerabilities that Harnett explores so well.

Plum's awkwardness and insecurities open up a vein to one's own teenage angst. It's uncomfortable reading...tinged with a sense of relief that one is finally past all that.

Except for Maureen that is. The lonely stay-at-home neighbour who has reached the supposed security of adult life, only to realise it's not all she had hope for.

As Maureen helps Plum to find her wings, she sees her own dreams and hopes flutter away.

However like all Hartnett's stories, there is a hint of something more mysterious. This is not just a real-life suburban story. There is a suggestion of something supernatural; magical moments appear to hover just out of reach.
And an ambigious ending hints at dangerous, even violent possibilities (if anyone would like to discuss the ending please attach a spoiler alert in your comment and do so! I would love to dissect what happened.)

Butterfly was shortlisted for the 2010 Miles Franklin Award which I confess I find a little curious.
As much as I enjoyed it & love Hartnett's writing, Butterfly doesn't fit the usual Miles Franklin mold.

Butterfly fulfills one of my birthday month RC books for February.
Sonya was born 23rd february, 1968 in Boxhill, Melbourne.


  1. Maybe it's a good thing that the book doesn't fit the usual Miles Franklin mold. It's good to have diversity in our prizes.

    1. I agree, they tend not to actually win the awards though :-(

  2. Anonymous8/2/15

    Nice review and I discovered the Miles Franklin Award (books about Australian life in any of its phases). Perhaps I can find a good book for #AusReadingMonth in November!

    1. The MF award would be a great place to find a book for AusReading Month. I'm hoping to get to Kim Scott's book this year :-)


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