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"Wherever You Are, Be Totally There"

Eckhart Tolle

Book Review: The Butterfly Collector by Tea Cooper

Updated: Jun 10

As an avid reader from Australia, Tea Cooper’s The Butterfly Collector felt like a journey through time and space within our own beautiful landscape. The novel intertwines the past and present with the grace of a butterfly’s flight, capturing the essence of Australian history and the spirit of its people.

Butterfly on a flower
Gentleness of a Butterfly

Set in the small town of Morpeth, New South Wales, the narrative flits between 1868 and 1922. The dual timelines offer a rich, immersive experience, shedding light on different eras of Australian life. Cooper's meticulous research is evident in her vivid portrayal of the Victorian era's societal constraints and the post-World War I period's struggles and optimism. Her depiction of the Australian bush is particularly evocative, highlighting the unique flora and fauna that make our country so special.

The story begins with Verity Binks, a modern-day journalist, who stumbles upon a mysterious portrait that leads her to uncover the secrets of Theodora Breckenridge, a pioneering woman lepidopterist. Theodora’s story in the 1860s is one of passion and resilience, capturing butterflies in a time when women were often confined to domestic roles. Her defiance against societal norms is inspiring and resonates deeply, particularly within the context of Australia’s progressive strides towards gender equality.

Cooper’s characters are richly drawn and relatable. Theodora’s courage and determination are mirrored in Verity’s modern-day quest for truth, creating a strong link across the centuries. The relationships in the novel, particularly the bonds between women, are portrayed with warmth and authenticity. The friendship between Theodora and her maid Clarrie is a standout, showcasing the solidarity and strength that women draw from each other.

What sets *The Butterfly Collector* apart is its seamless blend of historical fiction and mystery. The plot is intricately woven, with secrets and revelations that keep the reader eagerly turning the pages. Cooper's writing is lyrical and descriptive, bringing to life the Australian settings with a painterly touch. From the bustling streets of Sydney to the serene expanses of the Hunter Valley, the novel is a love letter to Australia’s diverse landscapes.

One of the most compelling aspects of the novel is its exploration of the art and science of butterfly collecting. Cooper delves into the symbolism of butterflies...

...transformation, freedom, and the fleeting nature of beauty...

paralleling the characters' journeys. The meticulous details about lepidopterology add depth to the story, highlighting a fascinating aspect of natural history that is often overlooked.

From an Australian perspective, *The Butterfly Collector* is a testament to our rich cultural heritage and the indomitable spirit of our people. Tea Cooper has crafted a narrative that not only entertains but also educates, shedding light on the lesser-known aspects of our history. The novel is a reminder of the importance of preserving our stories and celebrating the women who have shaped our nation.

*The Butterfly Collector* is a captivating read that will appeal to fans of historical fiction and mystery alike. Its beautifully crafted narrative and richly drawn characters make it a standout addition to Australian literature. Tea Cooper has once again proven herself to be a master storyteller, and this novel is a delightful escape into the past that also resonates with contemporary themes.

The Butterfly Collector Book Cover

Whether you’re a longtime fan of Tea Cooper or new to her work, *The Butterfly Collector* is a must-read that will leave you pondering the delicate threads that connect our past and present.


Deb xx


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