Thursday, August 27, 2009

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

One of my book groups is discussing In the Time of the Butterflies and I was frankly glad of it. This is a book I’ve heard about off and on for many years but never really felt compelled to pick up and that is one of the main reasons why I love being in a bookgroup! Everyone would benefit from joining a book group as long as they read the selection. I won’t even say you have to do it without complaint because what kind of fun discussion would that be?

This novel is loosely based on the story of Mirabal sisters who lived in the Dominican Republic under the Trujillo dictatorship. The four lively sisters were in a reasonably well off family and had a relatively quiet childhood up until their father began a more or less open relationship, complete with children, with another woman. They grew up under the shadow of Trujillo’s rule and became amazingly independent women for their time, going to school and university as well as getting involved with the revolution to overthrow Trujillo…a movement that ultimately, and sadly, led to their own downfall.

Stories like this always leave me melancholy simply because of the kernel of truth they are based on. Most of the worst of the action happens off the page but it is the imagining that sometimes makes it worse. I am not terribly fond of the arrangement with different chapters from different perspectives told in different persons. It reminded me of what I didn’t like about The Time Traveler’s Wife and made it hard to focus on what I did like. I believe the story of the Mirabal sisters is an important one and I would definitely like to know more about them.

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