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Butterfly Burning: A Novel [Paperback]

Yvonne Vera
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book by Vera, Yvonne

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
There is a pause. An expectation. They play a refrain on handmade guitars; lovers with tender shoulders and strong fists and cold embraces. Read the first page
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars awesome book July 21 2005
Format:Paperback
A beautifully written book about colonialism and the alienating influence it has on people who lose touch with their roots as they try to adapt to the changing times. I enjoyed this rich, challenging and fascinating story. The Usurper and Other Stories, The Village of waiting, Anthills of the Savannah, Triple Agent Double Cross are some of the other African titles I enjoyed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Exquisite Find Feb. 7 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I found this book while browsing my local library shelves.
The story of a young woman's longing for selfhood in an Arfrican township during the 1940's speaks volumes to all of us who have felt, at one time or another, trapped in the seeming bleakness of our surroundings.
The writing is startlingly beautiful in its imagery, rich and full of bittersweetness like chocolate. The words come in floods and tides, you are literally overwhelmed by her words. They, alone, give their own experience.
The story of Phephelaphi is visceral: you do not merely read about her life, but feel it through her pain. Vera writes with the African closeness to nature and being; it is not an easy read, but one that will stay with you long after the last page is turned.
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars An Exquisite Find Feb. 7 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I found this book while browsing my local library shelves.
The story of a young woman's longing for selfhood in an Arfrican township during the 1940's speaks volumes to all of us who have felt, at one time or another, trapped in the seeming bleakness of our surroundings.
The writing is startlingly beautiful in its imagery, rich and full of bittersweetness like chocolate. The words come in floods and tides, you are literally overwhelmed by her words. They, alone, give their own experience.
The story of Phephelaphi is visceral: you do not merely read about her life, but feel it through her pain. Vera writes with the African closeness to nature and being; it is not an easy read, but one that will stay with you long after the last page is turned.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars POWERFUL WRITING THAT SPEAKS TO THE UNIVERSAL HEART July 8 2003
By Larry L. Looney - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Yvonne Vera's talent is amazing - she is gifted with the ability to relate stories set in her native Zimbabwe with stunning literary grace and beauty, opening the lives of her characters to the readers' eyes and hearts, laying bare the lovely and depraved and everything in between. That she does all of this and additionally illuminates and brings forth the universal aspects in each and every instance bears witness to the fact that, while she may be an African writer, writing about African people and events, she deserves to be recognized, admired and honored by the world at large - and the world at large owes it to itself to discover her talents.
BUTTERFLY BURNING is set in a Rhodesian township in the late 1940s - long before Independence from British rule. The black citizens (who, in reality, weren't recognized as citizens in their own country) were reviled by most of the whites, looked upon as a source of cheap labor and criminal activity. They weren't even allowed to walk on the sidewalks with the 'imported' white citizens. The heroine of Vera's novel is a young woman named Phephelaphi - orphaned as a young girl and raised by a close friend of her mother, she is filled with a burning need to always become more, to see her life expand without limits. This longing became widespread in the hearts of women in the West many years later with the rise of feminism - women sick of being relegated to cooking and cleaning, aching for more of an education and more of a chance to find their place in the world. Phephelaphi's yearnings lead her ever forward - emotionally, socially, and with respect to a potential career. When her path crosses with that of Fumbatha - an older man with a kind heart and a bruised and battered past (as many in Rhodesia were) - she finds love and security, and, for a while, satisfaction and fulfillment. With all of the love he can offer her, however, Fumbatha cannot fulfill all of Phephelaphi's needs - and her search to meet these needs brings her both joy and sorrow. The joys she experiences will raise your heart to the heavens - and her sorrows will break it.
As in her newest novel, THE STONE VIRGINS, Vera breathes palpable life into her characters - they are immediately acceptable and accessible to the reader. The physical settings - both the natural world and the world of the township and city - spring to life as well through the careful brush-strokes of the author's words. All of it blends together into a style that entertains on one level, certainly - but this writing will affect the reader on many, many levels. There is a depth and beauty here - and a natural grace - that is a rare thing in writing. Vera's novels are short (two of them, WITHOUT A NAME and UNDER THE TONGUE, are contained in one volume), but don't be deceived - once begun, they expand exponentially, and they will resonate within you for years to come.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Exquisite Find Feb. 7 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I found this book while browsing my local library shelves.
The story of a young woman's longing for selfhood in an Arfrican township during the 1940's speaks volumes to all of us who have felt, at one time or another, trapped in the seeming bleakness of our surroundings.
The writing is startlingly beautiful in its imagery, rich and full of bittersweetness like chocolate. The words come in floods and tides, you are literally overwhelmed by her words. They, alone, give their own experience.
The story of Phephelaphi is visceral: you do not merely read about her life, but feel it through her pain. Vera writes with the African closeness to nature and being; it is not an easy read, but one that will stay with you long after the last page is turned.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not your average novel, but poetry July 14 2003
By Tammi L. Coles - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Booker Tea Reading Group (Wash., D.C.) read this title for our June discussion. While all of us agreed that Vera was a powerful and skilled writer, many also concluded that her writing style was so dense and poetry-like that it made it a challenge to read. This is not a put-down-pick-up-where-you-left-off book. The book does not have a plot. Rather, you are painted a picture of Southern Rhodesia that is both brutal and compelling for the reader and the characters drawn by Vera. The author gives space to the love story in glimpses between images of racial violence, back-breaking labor, rootless children, lost women and desperate men. Some scenes were so vivid it made me wriggle about in discomfort. We recently read "Austerlitz" by Sebald. If you were a patient enough reader for that, and enjoyed it, you'll like Vera. Also reminiscent of the beautiful and complex works of Toni Morrison.
3.0 out of 5 stars Far from brilliant June 4 2014
By Darryl Hand - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Darryl reads a book. It is endless, nothing concealed, no one could survive. He reads, breathless, into the space between words. Inapt metaphors and inept similes. Fragmented sentences. Silence turns to color, and so on.

Taking drugs, the fire soon turns the ashes of the sun into nonsense. Words shouted noiselessly. Flying above the mountain, the ashes glitter like a train. The dust flies recklessly, like a note from a broken guitar string.

Darryl spoke wordlessly the question he could not answer - what the f***?

Well, that's my impression of the writing style. It does get better as it goes along, and if you can suffer this bizarre and tortured presentation, I recommend you finish the book. If you are looking for suggestions for your book club, the best bet is to skip this one.
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerizing June 22 2010
By K - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
All those who enter into this novel will be rewarded. One of the best writers of any country, Yvonne Vera's poetic language may be dense, but it is oh, so worth untangling.
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