Last year, My mother passed on her copy of The Butterfly Summer by Harriet Evans to me, as she knows how much I love a book with an old mysterious house in it. In February, I finally picked it up as an escape during one of the many rainy days.
This tale sweeps the reader off to Cornwall, up a hidden over-grown creek towards a long-forgotten house: Keepsake. A place full of wonder, sadness and danger, which has been passed down through the female line of the Parr family; since it was bequeathed by Charles II to his abandoned lover. Now the elegant Elizabethan walls are crumbling and the exquisite garden, full of exotic butterflies, has grown wild, but locked within this place, waiting to break free, is a heart breaking story of love and betrayal. This is Nina Parr’s birthright – it holds the truth about her family and offers a chance to finally put things right.
The narration is split between two characters. In the present day, the reader follows Nina Parr – a young divorcee, from a dysfunctional family, stuck in an unfulfilling job – who lives in London and is set on unravelling this mystery after a chance encounter in The British Library. While the secrets of the past are slowly and unreliably revealed by Theodora (Teddy) Parr, through a letter written to her estranged son George. I’m not sure I always liked or agreed with either narrator, however I could totally sympathise with the difficult situations they were in. What was most interesting to see was how the legacy of Keepsake affected these two very different women’s lives.
I have never read anything by Harriet Evans before, however if you read my blog regularly than you will know how much I love a dual time period novel (some of my favourites being by Susanna Kearsley), so with the big mysterious house this book had double appeal for me. I think Evans dealt with both time periods well, although as usual I was most drawn to the past which in this case was set during the lead up to and during World War II. Both periods were realistically described with nice touches of detail like fashion, culture and food – my only niggle would be that I would prefer less sexual detail, but that is just my personal taste and is not a reflection on the writing skill.
Overall, I thought The Butterfly Summer was an interesting mystery full of secrets, betrayal and history. I would definitely be open to reading more by Harriet Evans. Good read.
Have you read this? Or anything else by Harriet Evans?