Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Review: The Butterfly Cabinet by Bernie McGill
Title The Butterfly Cabinet by Bernie McGill
Publisher: Free Press
Published: July 26, 2011
Ripped from the headlines (the late 19th century ones), The Butterfly Cabinet is based on the death by suffocation of young girl. We learn the background story via the maid Maddie and the lady of the house's narration. Maddie narrates from her entry in to service of the family and the lady of the house Harriet Ormond narrates from her prison. As the story unfolds, the web of secrets that cloaked this family tragedy is unwound. In addition, we get an idea of the political turmoil and pandering that contributed to Mrs. Ormond's conviction.
Based on the "facts" as they stand, Mrs. Ormond is irrefutably guilty of excessive cruelty to her children and by extension the death of Charlotte. In her prison diaries, she details her difficult relationship with her parents and her resultant difficulties with the rearing of her own children. Harriet details how she bristles at the attitude and actions expected from a woman such as herself. Striving for self-control, she expects the utmost discipline from every one - servants and her children alike. Unfortunately, her inability to be flexible leads to her downfall.
Maddie finally has a chance to unburden herself of the secrets that have plagued her for nearly eight decades. Her story allows us to see the story from the angle of the working class and servants, who are viewed looked down on yet necessary for the class system to continue. Her seemingly unimportant presence belies the significant part she plays in this family's history for several generations.
The book was a great peek into a past era that still informs the present. The seemingly unnecessary elements are all wound up at the end to complete the story. Politics, religion, class system, and culture all collide to create the perfect storm to ring in the end of an era. Bernie McGill manages to create a suspenseful and detailed story from a mysterious true event from an age gone by.
**This book was provided by the publisher Free Press in exchange for my honest opinion.**