Saturday, March 21, 2009

The sound of Butterflies -Rachael King

Thomas, a young lepidopterist, returned from Amazon abruptly from his collecting expedition. But it isn't the same Thomas who left his young wife in their small town Richmond in the UK , returned. The changes are not only physical, but more concerning as he has turned mute. He does not talk to anyone. As his wife Sophie, trying to get him back to the normal way of life, by exploring the events occurred during his time in Amazon, through the reading of his journals, the story unveils of the cruelty, the greed and the slavery under the dreaded rubber baron in the Amazon jungles.

Thomas , an amateur collector of butterflies, was selected to join a group of 4 scientists in an expedition to the Amazon, sponsored by Santos, a rubber baron in Brazil. As they reach and enthusiastically set out to collect specimens in the dense jungles fighting the insects bites, the heat and the tough conditions, they also started seeing the harsh realities of fear, submission and servility of the people to the land owner. The accidental fire of the huts, the death of the Captain and other cruelties of the rubber mafia is a startling knowledge to Thomas. The collection of samples and shipment of consignment to London has continued despite the difficult conditions and recurring illness. The whole affair has taken a turn on Thomas's life after their meeting with the sponsor Santos in his palace. After being drugged, and his misadventure under its spell with Santos wife, Thomas has become vary of Santos and his men. The situation worsens resulting the death of Santos's wife and one of his colleague, and a forceful return of Thomas to his home country.

Thomas is fighting two battles. One of his own guilt and shame of betraying his wife. The other of the shock and the forced muteness out of fear resulted from his experience. On the other hand, Sophie is fighting her battle with her past (and her father) and her temptation to seek revenge. Well , as expected everything ends well.

This is the first novel published by this New Zealand writer and for that it is a good work. Set in the early 20th century, when it was a fashion to explore nature and species from all over the world and to discover something new, Thomas was also duped by a rumour of a asymmetrical butterfly and spend his energy and focus to find it and document it for the world ( he goes to an extent of naming the to be found butterfly after his wife). The prose is good and is structurally perfect and simple to read. A good work of fiction, but not for a serious literature reader.
The Sound of Butterflies
Rachael KingPicador
354 Pages
Rs 285
Further read : Listener Review

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