The Butterfly Cabinet
Free Press 2011
Maddie McGlade receives a letter from one of her charges. Maddie is in her nineties, living in a nursing home in Ireland. She realizes it is time to unburden herself of a secret she has kept for some seventy years. She knows what really happened on the last day in the life of Charlotte Ormond, the four year old daughter of the big house in which Maddie was employed. She tells the tale to her would be niece who is pregnant with her first child.
Harriet Ormond is charged and held responsible with her daughter's death. She does not try to defend herself throughout the trial. She does not take to motherhood easily despite the fact she has numerous children. She is a proud and unforgiving woman whose only passions seem to be in riding free with her horses, and collecting butterflies that she stores in her beloved cabinet.
I am generally not inclined to read stories that jump back and forth in time from person to person. In this case, the author flawlessly paints a picture of the events that occurred when Maddie tells her tale in 1968, and of Harriet's side of the story that is written in her diary while she is in prison in 1892. The diary, discovered by Maddie in the confines of the butterfly cabinet, was kept hidden by Maddie for decades. In the sunset of her life, Maddie decides it is time to tell the story.
The story is an engrossing portrayal of the dark histories of two lives that intertwine. The story is inspired by the death of an aristocratic Irish family who's daughter died at the end of the nineteenth century. As Maddie's life of sacrifice, poverty, fear, and lies unfold, she tells the truth to Anna in an attempt to set herself free at last. Harriet's life also unfolds in the pages of her prison diary. as she tells the tale of her daughter's death and the secrets and lies of her own family are revealed. What starts out as her prison, eventually sets her free also.
This is an emotionally heartrending read; but is well worth the time. You will truly see what it means when someone says, "the truth shall set you free."
I wish to thank Free Press for providing me with a copy to read and review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I was not compensated in anyway except for the privilege of reading the book.
I give The Butterfly Cabinet 4.5 out of 5 stars