‘Annie March has created an eco-utopia of such depth and exquisite detail, I sometimes dreamed I’d been there. This is a book that rewards patience and deserves to be widely read. A solid 4-stars.’ – Literature Obscura
'"Trust the flower in the seed." This phrase from Butterfly's Children has stayed with me. Like so much of the book it is beautifully lyrical and it made me stop and think about the concepts and meaning behind what I was reading.
Whilst there are some familiar aspects to the world Annie March introduces us to, she builds from that to take us outside of our experience. This is essential as we are at some point into the future in a time when the world is recovering, literally and metaphorically, from the excesses of our current age. The planet has almost been destroyed and the people in the book are having to live their lives very differently, acutely aware of their ecological footprint.
The main character, Meriel is 15 when the book begins and the reader is taken on her journey. She sails Speedwell alone across the oceans in search of her history and her future. In some senses this is a coming of age book, but it is more than that. Meriel “loves thresholds and horizon. And edges…..” and the book continually leaves the reader in a place of uncertainty, just like Meriel herself. She and the characters she encounters grapple with some very difficult moral and ethical dilemmas and, as a reader, you are invited to think those through too.
The book is also a story of adventure and it canters along very quickly. Although it is a big book (500 pages) it didn’t take me very long to read it. The plot is lively and interesting and the characters unusual and intriguing. I referred to Annie March’s world building (which is vibrant, creative and exciting) and the reader needs to be prepared to enter an unfamiliar place, where language, traditions and ideas are newly constructed. Whilst this was enriching and enjoyable much of the time, sometimes I found this quite difficult - I had to keep on referring to the dictionary at the back of the book for meaning of words and I struggled a bit with some of the names of the characters. There are maps and guides to help you navigate the book and these were invaluable but sometimes I felt distracted from the narrative a little.
I’m not sure if the book is targeted at young adults – they would certainly enjoy it I am sure – but I think people of all ages will take a lot from it. I certainly enjoyed it. I’ll end, as I began with a quote from the book “I’m just remembering how deeply we grow into landscape. And landscape into us”. Beautiful.
4 stars.' – Ian Hobbs (Amazon reviews)
It's hard to know exactly how to review this book as it is unlike anything I've ever read before. With a cast list at the front, dictionary at the back and an understory, to ease you in, it's clear from the start that this book will transport the reader to a completely different world.
To be honest, at the start it feels like you're reading the dream of someone who's eaten too much cheese before bedtime!
We're in another world but yet there are familiarities. A post apocalyptic planet you'd be forgiven for thinking is going to lead you into a tale of dystopian society - yet actually as you delve into the book it feels more like Utopia. The excesses of modern life have been lost and in it's place there is a society that has come together. Living is more communal, arts and crafts are important and everyone's "footprint" is measured so that each citizen lives within sustainable limits. It could all sound a bit preachy but doesn't.
The tale essentially follows Meriel - an orphan who needs to find herself (having loved her adopted parents "to a standstill"). She sets sail in her trusty craft, Speedwell, and meets a myriad of friends (who become new family) along her adventures. She's guided by Lucy the Unicorn, sometimes Camel, eventually falling off the edge of the known world and onto an unknown island. Despite having disguised the true nature of her journey from port officials the love of all her friends and family means she is found safe and sound when it starts to feel all hope is lost.
This really is the running theme of the book for me, renewal of the soul, love, life and nature.
There are salutory lessons that we can take. Meriel has the task of beachcombing at one point only to find "as usual, half a bucket of plastic litter from the Anthropocene era" whilst meanwhile seeing what "our forebears had done to the sea. They'd both pillaged it, and used it as a sewer and a waste dump"
Throughout you feel like this is a commentary on what we are doing to our world and a gentle nudge to some things we may be able to do better "I have to practise living here as if it were the whole world, and in the whole world as if it were here. As if every blade of grass mattered."
It is meandering and has a language all of it's own and whilst it all feels a little strange at first the writing as an almost hypnotically melodic quality that draws you in.
I think a first read only scratches the surface of what the book is trying to say and I daresay that having got the gist from a first read through I could probably revisit this book more than once and draw even more from it.
It's bonkers but kind of beautiful - a book that provokes thought but allows you to lose yourself for a while too.
4 stars.' – Anjep (Amazon reviews)
'It seems more than appropriate to write this review on National Unicorn Day (9th April) for this story begins with the orphan Meriel being carried away on the back of a flying camel called Lucy – a camel who can also transform into a unicorn! And so begins Meriel’s journey to discover her planet and its past, and inevitably to discover herself. It is a fantastical tale where the reader simply needs to suspend disbelief and embrace the otherness of the planet Thalassa, a planet where everyday objects like washing machines sit alongside the sentient Bells of Halvor that reflect the mood of the city; a place where people still need to deal with sewage and storms, but where there are also alchemists and human nodes and a planet with thirteen moons. The whole story appeals to the senses with vivid descriptions of food, nature and wildlife. It is almost a utopian world where chores are divided, education is selected according to interest and people have the chance to engage in mindful activities where they feel connected and centred – weaving, sculpture, drawing, sailing.
But, as Meriel discovers, Thalassa is a planet recovering from a dark past of ‘industrial pollution, rampant consumption, genetic engineering…war’ and this is where the novel truly resonates with our world. She meets an Ethics Officer and learns of the ‘Footprinters’ who calculate how people’s choices affect the rest of life. Meriel is desperate to keep her boat Speedwell but is reminded by her friend “How can something be beautiful if it’s at the expense of life?” The constant ‘grabbing’ of previous generations has left its mark not only on the land but also on the people. Meriel develops a close friendship with Silky, a young girl whose disability may be linked to genetic damage caused by people poisoning the biosphere.
‘Butterfly’s Children’ is a rich and imaginative book that creates a whole other universe which we explore with Meriel. But it is also a story of the here and now as it prompts the reader to pause and reflect on our world and the very real problems we are creating.
4 stars' – Rusty (Amazon reviews)