Review: In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
Title: In the Time of the Butterflies
Author: Alvarez, Julia
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Fiction, Historical
Publisher / Year: Algonquin Books / 1994
Source: Second book received from my LibraryThing SantaThing last Christmas.
Why I Read It: It was a gift, and it sounded interesting.
Date Read: 05/09/12
On November 25, 1960, three of the Mirabal sisters in the Dominican Republic were killed by the dictatorial regime. In this book, Alvarez imagines the life of the four sisters (the three who were murdered and the fourth who survived) from when they were little through to their death.
The novel opens with Dedé preparing for an interview, yet another, about her famous sisters – the butterflies of the revolution. From there, she moves to flashbacks of what she remembers, which moves smoothly to the next three chapters, one narrated by each of the martyred sisters, Patria, Minerva, and Marie Teresa. Each of the three sections is written in this manner, advancing in years as the novel progresses.
While my (obvious) preference would have been for a non-fiction biography of the sisters, this was an incredibly moving novel that worked so well. All four sisters had such a distinct voice and feel than the others. Their lives interacted so well through their stories and the family dynamics were believable and interesting.
The novel also gave an interesting portrayal of life under a brutal and suppressive dictator. It highlighted the ways that people are hidden from the truths and brainwashed into believing fabricated truths. It also showed the ways that people slowly come to learn, and the ways that people act when confronted, at long last, with the actual facts. Each of the sisters reacted in different ways to the knowledge of this truth, and it took some time for all of them. It was a fantastic portrayal of the different ways we all act under pressure and stress.
Highly recommended to all who enjoy stories about families, about revolution, about strong women, and / or about the ways in which we all choose to cope.