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November 25, 2011 / Tracey

Review: The Butterfly Cabinet | Bernie McGill

The Butterfly Cabinet is the debut novel from female Irish author, Bernie McGill.  It’s the weaving together of two stories.  The first is the story of Harriet, lady of the house at Oranmore, which Harriet describes as follows:

“To me, it has always looked, and still looks, like a house playing at being a castle.”

Harriet is the mother of many children however her hobby is collecting butterflies, which she studies, pins and preserves in her cabinet – after which the novel takes its name.

Maddie was a former nanny at Oranmore, and the reader meets her when she is ready to let go of a secret she’s been holding onto for decades.  She is talking with Anna, the last child she looked after – now married and expecting a child of her own.  

McGill take us back to Dublin in the late 1890s to share Harriet’s personal thoughts after the death of her daughter and what happens when she is found responsible.  Chapters from Maddie’s perspective take place in 1968.

This novel felt quite similar to Gillespie and I by Jane Harris, but unfortunately wasn’t as good.  I felt that the ‘secret’ or the climax that the novel was building towards wasn’t as satisfying at the end as I was hoping it could have been.

In terms of character development, I was most interested in Harriet’s character.  She was not a natural mother, she had unusual thoughts on parenting, and this got her into trouble and ultimately a prison sentence.  (This isn’t a spoiler by the way, it’s in the blurb).

I was divided about which book cover to post in this review so I ended up posting both.  I like the haunting blue one (pictured right) depicting Oranmore, although it’s interesting to see two very different cover designs for the same book.

There were gothic elements within The Butterfly Cabinet, and I’m glad I could include it in my Gothic Reading Challenge.

Ultimately, the plot was there and it had potential to be so much more, but I was a little disappointed.

My rating = **

That’s my four bucks!



Leave a Comment
  1. TBM / Nov 28 2011 11:08 am

    I love the cover. I would have bought it based on the cover. I'm sorry that it let you down though.

  2. Tracey / Nov 28 2011 12:29 pm

    Which cover did you prefer? The bookish butterfly cover, or the Oranmore stone house cover?

  3. TBM / Nov 28 2011 12:57 pm

    The Oranmore Stone House cover. I'm a history nerd and this one screams history to me!

  4. Tracey / Nov 29 2011 8:40 am

    Yeah me too, it suggests mystery, history and a dark gothic feel.

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