I can like a book if it has a compelling story, polished writing, or nuggets that make me think. The Butterfly Cabinet scores on all three. Told in back and forth chapters between a old woman clearing her soul of a lifelong secret and the prison diary of her mistress, one might stop to admire the writing if the story were not so compelling.
A quote about old age in my friend Martha Ginn’s blog put me onto the book to start with. “You'd think the way people go on that if they stand too close to old age and loneliness they'll catch it themselves. I suppose that's true in a way, because you do catch it, if you stay around long enough. But you don't get it from other people; you don't get it from anybody but yourself.”
But I have found more quotes of my own that have left me thinking as I read the book.
On death: “There was a wake and the neighbors came and told stories I’d never heard. Why do people wait till a person is dead to do that?”
On wages: “I was to have five shillings and two pounds of soap a month and every Sunday afternoon free.”
On bedtime stories: “That’s what we do: tell made-up stories to fend off the night, to put off telling the truth.”
On justice: “There’s much to be said for a vision of a world in black and white: it is so much safer than having to consider shades and variations of color and tone.”
On freedom: “This is not my prison. I carry it with me. We devise cages of our own choosing.”
Irish author Bernie McGill tells a fine tale with beautiful words and leaves her reader pondering some of its hidden wisdom. Perhaps there really is something special in the Blarney Stone.