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The Behaviour Of Moths Hardcover – 1 May 2008


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (1 May 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0356251136
  • ISBN-13: 978-0356251134
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)

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Review

I found listening to it enthralling as well as deeply unsettling... thanks to Sandra Duncan's performance. Her brittle, Cheltenham vowels are perfectly matched to the character of the evasive and deluded narrator. [With] the utterly brilliant matching of narrator to text... we feel we are listening to Ginny herself. --Christina Hardyment, The Times

Layers of increasingly disturbing family secrets are gradually revealed in this beguiling and chilling story with a brilliant narration. --Rachel Redford, The Observer

Adams succeeds in carefully building up an atmosphere of penumbral suspense, creeping towards a tense climax. --The Literary Review --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Book Description

* An extraordinarily haunting, subtle and moving first novel about secrets and lies and moths * A marked success in hardback and shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Prize --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Rich Boden VINE VOICE on 1 Jan. 2010
Format: Hardcover
"The Behaviour of Moths" has airs of "Grey Gardens", "Sunset Boulevard", "Great Expectations" and various other stories of batty old recluses living in rotting mansions, but it is a very original tale. The narrator, Virginia (Ginny) is a very unreliable one - she sees the world differently to everyone else and doesn't always see the obvious. Although she claims to be an expert on moths, she's clearly not because she makes many mistakes in the science she mentions (I prefer to think of these mistakes as mistakes on Ginny's part, not mistakes on the author's part). Ginny's very safe, secure world, rattling around in her family home, is rocked by the return of her younger sister (Vivian) after almost 50 years.

The narrative flashes back and forth between the present day and the 1950s as we learn the history of the family and how Ginny came to live alone. As homet-truths start to be revealed by Vivian, Ginny has to face facts that her version of events isn't the same as everyone elses.

The book is wonderfully written in a lovely, evocative style and the characterisation of Ginny (who is about 70) is almost childlike, but then she has never really grown up and does live in the past, which suits her perfectly. Ginny is obsessive with respect to time and order and routine and her characterisations are very well researched. She describes her scientific work in minute details but this is full of errors (chemicals that don't exist, mechanisms of poison action that are wrong), probably due to Ginny's delusions of being an expert when she's really not one.

I do hope for a sequal - or prequal - or at least more books from Poppy Adams. This one was wonderful.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By salemskye.com on 19 Oct. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Ginny and Vivi were close as sisters but then at 15 Vivi left and didn't come home for 47 years. Home, is Bulburrow Court, a grand country pile which Ginny has not left in all those years. But now, Vivi has returned and some family secrets are unearthed.

It is never said but Ginny, unreliable narrator par excellence, is clearly on the Autism Spectrum, and her funny quirks and ways of being caused her family, in particular her father Clive to cosset her from the realities of life. Clive himself, I suspect was like Ginny, and both were obsessed by moths. Each of them turned their obsession to quite successful academic careers at the expense of their family. Maud, Ginny and Vivi's glamorous mother, slowly descends into alcoholism shortly after Vivi leaves home and takes her loneliness and anger out on poor Ginny. Ginny struggles to hide the alcoholism from her father and the bruises she gains at the hands of her mother. Then her mother dies and tensions between Ginny and Clive and Vivi are strained beyond repair.

47 years later and Vivi has returned to Bulburrow Court. She wants Ginny to know the truth while Ginny herself hides secrets from Vivi.

I felt almost suffocated by Vivi and Maud's treatment of Ginny. Ginny is an entirely likeable, even lovable character. Yes, she is very frustrating but she is happy. After a lifetime of being at the whim of others (alcoholic Maud, selfish Vivi, Clive who pushes her into taking over his rein) she is happy: happy with her cosseted life at Bulburrow, happy with her routine, happy with her solitary confinement and my shackles really raised at the behavior of Vivi. We don't know the truth and to be honest, like Ginny, I didn't want to know the truth, or for Ginny to be force-fed some home truths.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sarah W VINE VOICE on 7 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
Like an earlier reviewer (Sarah Wray), I thought this novel was `pretty good': definitely above average, I'd give it 3.5 stars if that were a possible option. The funny thing is, though, it's right up my street with its unreliable narrator, atmospheric environment, slow burn and gothic elements. I therefore expected to be enthralled, but I was simply interested.

Somehow it felt a little contrived; a little too claustrophobic. I longed for use of the third person to give more insight and bring in more characters, to deliver a touch more `plot', I suppose.

I realise that this would have altered the story, shedding too much light on what was going on. The challenge was to live in the narrator's perspective but to try to work out, from clues, what was `fact'; what was her assumption; what, if anything, was actually objective. There's nothing wrong with that, I enjoy that sort of challenge, but this didn't hold my attention as strongly as Sarah Waters' fantastic new novel `The Little Stranger', which is not dissimilar in its style and tone. Maybe I've just read too many first person narrator novels all in a bunch and am feeling slightly jaded.

I suspect I'm being too critical: this is still an enjoyable and intelligent read and the characterisation is intriguing. I liked the fact that the two key characters (the narrator and her sister) are elderly women, both quirky and individual. Older women don't often get to hog a story and neither do insects. Here they combine to share the limelight!

Do read it and see what you think.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By lilysmum VINE VOICE on 26 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback
I bought this at the airport on impulse and thoroughly enjoyed it. It tells the story of Ginny who is living alone in a mansion having seemingly sold off most of the heirlooms, and her sister, Vivien, who returns home after having left under a family cloud years earlier. The story is told by the very unreliable Ginny who has a very different take on family life to her sister and it is gradually revealed that Ginny is not the person she thinks she is! There were several revelations in the story that were really shocking and entertaining at the same time, and the character of Ginny was absorbing - she is so self obsessed, and so idiosyncratic, that I couldn't wait to see what she did next. Some of the narrative is fantastically well written - I couldn't give examples because I would spoil the plot if you haven't read it yet, but read it you should, because Poppy Adams is an author to watch and I can't wait for her next book. Highly recommended.
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