The latest family saga from Lucinda Riley sweeps from Southwold in Suffolk to Bodmin Moor, London to Cambridge, carrying with it the tangled secrets of three generations. The Butterfly Room is a big book, 640 pages, but I didn’t notice. This is so much more than a romance, though there is love – and betrayal – in its pages; at the centre of it all is Admiral House in Southwold, the home of the Montague family.
The book opens in 1944 as Posy Montague catches butterflies with her Spitfire pilot father, just before he returns to the airforce for the last few months of the war. I actually found this a stuttering start, the first person voice of a seven-year old is difficult to pull off convincingly, even if she is bookish and described as ‘precocious’… a sharp, intelligent child, but one who doesn’t understand the behaviour of adults around her. In fact this first chapter is something of a prologue, setting up behaviour which rattles through the following generations. The story really took off for me when the 2006 strands start – Posy, now seventy; son Nick and girlfriend Tammy; daughter-in-law Amy; old friend Freddie and novelist lodger Sebastian. Off page, Posy married and was widowed, returning to Southwold to open up the family home. She hadn’t been there since her father was killed at the end of the war and Posy went to live with her grandmother in Devon. She raised her family in the house but now it is creaking and crumbling around her, it is too big for her and costs too much to keep going. There is some mystery about Admiral House, something happened there of which Posy is still unaware, but which is going to be disturbed as she sells the house in order to downsize.I had my guesses, and I was wrong.
The luxury of telling a story with this inter-generational scope is that it is possible to feature a number of characters in depth. Posy is the lynchpin of the book and at the centre of her family’s lives. And so we explore her eldest son Sam and his marriage to Amy, who is mistreated, downtrodden but full of love and determination. Posy’s second son Nick, a successful antiques dealer in Australia, has returned home to set up a new business. In London he meets former model Tammy, who is setting up her vintage fashion shop Reborn.
There are three core secrets, mysteries that saw me read late into the night and pick up the book at every available opportunity; something from Posy’s past, something from Nick’s past, and the business dealings of weak, unscrupulous Sam.
One of the type of books that, once you’ve finished it, you wish you’d never read it so you can start all over again. I galloped through it on holiday but some of the issues stayed with me afterwards; that fractured families can re-heal if the will is there, that cutting loose from the past can be both heart-breaking and freeing, and that it is never too late to say yes.
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THE BUTTERFLY ROOM by @lucindariley #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3UR via @SandraDanby