The Butterfly Summer by Harriet Evans
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What magic is this?
You follow the hidden creek towards a long-forgotten house.
They call it Keepsake, a place full of wonder ... and danger. Locked inside the crumbling elegance of its walls lies the story of the Butterfly Summer, a story you've been waiting all your life to hear.
This house is Nina Parr's birthright. It holds the truth about her family - and a chance to put everything right at last.
I really enjoyed this book although it did whizz back and forth in time but once the characters from the eras' were established it was easier to follow.
Essentially a story about a dysfunctional family and secrets and obligations that pass from female generation to generation binding them all together for an eternity. It starts at the end really where the present day Nina meets an old woman in the London Library where she has been given life membership by her father before he went away when she was a child and who she never sees again believing him to be dead. This chance meeting (or perhaps it wasn't chance) starts her on a journey of discovery about her life, lineage and inheritance of Keepsake and the butterflies.
Nina has been bought up by her mother Delilah and step father Malc with a little help from Mrs Poll who suddenly moved into the top flat of the house they lived in when Nina was about 6 months old. She proved to be a godsend to the exhausted Deliah and she helped to bring Nina up, like a real life fairy godmother she shared their lives until she died when Nina was 25. When she died she bequeathed her flat to them so they eventually ended up owning the whole house. We meet Nina just as she is getting a divorce from Sebastian who she met in university and after being together only a year they get married which they both realised quite quickly was a mistake. They remained good friends after the divorce probably better friends than when they were married.
Harriet Evans then takes us through several generations of the Parr family and expertly intertwines these characters together even though all the female members of the family were quite different their stories were authentic and characters believable. After meeting the present day Nina we are introduced to her ancestor Lady Nina who has a daughter Charlotte the product of a union between Nina and King Charles II when he was sheltering from the Roundheads he hid at Keepsake. He was enchanted with the butterfly garden that Nina had cultivated. When he hears he has a daughter he sends Nina a diamond brooch shaped like a butterfly which Charlotte wears and gives to her own daughter before she dies. The King also decrees that Keepsake be given to his daughter Charlotte and every daughter born there. On the broach is inscribed 'What's loved is never lost'.
The story hinges around the inheritance but also about wrongs that were done and sacrifices made to right those wrongs to atone for mistakes made generations before the present Nina was born. You can feel the force of those generations reaching out across time which makes this a compelling read.
I never tell too much about a book I review but urge you to read this one; its well written, hauntingly sad in places but satisfying in it's conclusion. I did guess the outcome but it does not really become obvious until the last few chapters at least it didn't for me. I enjoyed the journey of these females as they accepted responsibility of their inheritance and the burden that it bought them.
I have given this a well deserved 4 stars.
I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.