I have recently developed a love for butterflies, so felt that this book would be perfect for me. The story is set in the early 1900s, and is about Thomas Edgar, a young man who has an obsession with butterflies. Although he is not a professional collector, he has connections with someone at Kew Gardens, who hears about a scientific expedition to the Amazon. This friend feels that this expedition would give Thomas just the opportunity to make a name for himself, and prove to the world that his interest in butterflies is more than just a passing hobby. Thomas also sees it as a chance to discover a mythic butterfly which no-one else has yet been able to catch. Thomas is consumed with the idea of catching this butterfly and naming it in honour of his wife, Sophie. Yet, when Thomas returns from the jungle, Sophie discovers that her husband has been rendered mute - it seems obvious that something terrible must have happened to him out there, but what?
The story is told both from Thomas's and Sophie's perspective. The chapters alternate from Thomas narrating his journey in the jungle, and the reader being able to read the letters he sends back home to Sophie, and then onto Sophie describing life with her returned husband, as she tries to come to terms with whatever has happened to him. Because the story takes place during the beginning of the 1900s, Sophie also describes how society's reaction to her husband is a constant worry for her, as she desperately tries to keep up appearances.
What I enjoyed about this book is the descriptions of the two different worlds - the wild jungle and the very prim and proper England. Watching as two young, quite inexperienced lovers come to terms with the world and what society expects of them, was interesting and well written.
I also thought that the subplot of Thomas trying to find this mysterious butterfly was excellently done. The passion that he felt for butterflies was well expressed, making the reader almost feel sorry for Sophie as she worried that Thomas loved them more than her.
My only gripe with the novel was that it took a while to draw you in. While it was quite obvious what the undercurrent was, it wasn't until the final 120 pages or so that King began to tie everything up.
Having said that, for a long warm summer evening, sitting in the garden, this book makes a lovely companion.