Entertainment | Book Review: 'The Butterfly Garden' by Dot Hutchison

Trigger warning: mentions of rape and other sexual violence, general violence, murder and death in general

A concept not for the faint-hearted, this novel follows a girl kidnapped to live in a 'Butterfly Garden', a secret greenhouse, owned by a wealthy man who calls himself The Gardener. Once there, he tattoos his new butterfly's back with wings and keeps them as his own. The novel has its downfalls, but is still quite the page-turner.

I have quite mixed feelings when it comes to this novel. Whilst the concept was interesting and the narrative was gripping and kept me reading until the end, I had real issues with much of the characterisation and I was also left very underwhelmed by the big reveal that the novel had been building up to from the start.

The novel has an interesting concept and tackles feminist literary themes of the concept of beauty, as well as critiquing the patriarchy more broadly. Alongside this, it also went into more Marxist themes of the oppressive upper class. For these social critiques, I commend Hutchison as I believe they were done very well within the confines of 286 pages.

The actual storytelling was good in that it kept me turning the pages to see what happened next and did keep me interested right until the end of the novel. The pace was very good, so at no point did I feel like I was slogging through a section or being rushed, and it took enough breaks away from the flashback to keep me curious about what was coming next.

My criticisms of the novel stem from the fact that, besides Maya, no other characters were developed beyond one or two defining traits, which made me feel like they were less believable, credible characters than many characters I've read in other novels. This did also detract from the story slightly as it prevented any proper understanding of the Gardener's motives. Additionally, the 'shock reveal' that was hinted at throughout the novel was very disappointing as, although a surprise, I didn't feel it altered the essence of the story at all and could have very easily been cut from the novel at no great loss.

If you're looking for wonderfully in-depth characters who you can really get behind, The Butterfly Garden is not for you. However, for an interesting concept in a story and a narrative that keeps you curious, I would still recommend the novel.

Have you read The Butterfly Garden? I'd love to see your thoughts on it or any recommendations of similar novels in the comments!

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