Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Butterfly Cabinet by Bernie McGill

Great historical fiction can be made even more vivid when a relatively small true story, hidden away for generations, is brought to light. That is the case in The Butterfly Cabinet, by Northern Irish writer Bernie McGill.

Told in two voices, the book reveals the deep insights and memories of two women: Maddy, a former nanny from a grand Northern Irish estate now living in a senior care facility, shares her story orally, while Harriet Ormond, the mistress of the house, reveals herself in a diary written from prison. McGill's brilliant language and careful revelations of the truths of an incident that shaped each woman's life spin out like strands in a web. The title is a rich metaphor for the secrets that are kept, pinned down, like delicate and beautiful insects.

If you enjoy historical fiction focused on women's lives in Ireland in the late 19th century, upstairs/downstairs drama like BBC's Downton Abbey, with the added enticement of a domestic crime, this book could be next on your list.

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