12 March 2012

A Tale of two books, or two halves of a book anyway.

I wanted to love this story Bernie McGill told in The Butterfly Cabinet.  I really did.  It seemed to have all of the required elements of the type of story that can really suck you in and keep you turning pages. A death of a child that is based on true events, the hint of secrets to be revealed, the telling from two viewpoints, that of the accused and that of a former employee of the accused. In the end, though, it just did not deliver.

The story is told in two formats. The first being through diary entries written by the Harriet Ormond, mother of the dead child, who is ultimately accused of murdering the child. These entries I really enjoyed. I thought the author did a good job telling a believable story of life for a wife and mother in upper class England in the late 1800s. I especially liked the ruminations that she made regarding her passion for collecting butterflies and the parallels that could be drawn to the life of her and her family. This part of the book is the only reason that I was able to stay with it, and in the end give it a 3 star rating.

Unfortunately, the author included the other story. That of Maddie, a maid int he household and her recollections at the age of 90 regarding the events that took place. Maddie tells her story is a one sided conversation with one of Harriet's descendants. This part of the book I found to be disjointed and lacking any real emotion or depth. It is the main reason that I cannot rate the book higher. When Maddie's chapters occurred, I found myself reading quickly so that I could get back to Harriet's story.

The other reason that the book cannot be rated higher, in my opinion, is that it certainly did not live up to its promise of secrets revealed. Yes, there were secrets, and yes, they were revealed. Unfortunately, they were in no way stuning, compelling, or story altering. In the end, the secrets revealed where ho hum and as such, a huge let down.

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