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on 29 July 2009
The curious customs and beliefs of people, from all walks of life during the 17th century, which emerge during the course of this book give the reader a real sense of how it would be to live during these times. Fiona Mountain's writing is so descriptive you get pulled into this book without realizing it and it is impossible not to feel for Eleanor Glanville, a woman who was truly ahead of her time, while she struggles to conform to her expected place in society and still pursues her love of nature and science in the face of scorn and ridicule. For me the characters in this book are no longer merely names from the past, they have become full of life and I have been left with a longing to learn more about this period in history! Eleanor Glanville is an inspiration for us all and the author tells such a beautiful story I would be surprised if you will be able to put it down - I know I couldn't!
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on 28 July 2009
I was enthralled from start to finish. A wonderfully atmospheric book with a great storyline and very well-written characters. Set in the 1600s and based on fact it has much relevance today as it touches on wetland destruction and flooding and gives fascinating insights into the way butterflies and science were viewed in those early days. Above all though, it is a captivating love story. If you like historical fiction (and even if you don't!) you will love this book.
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on 31 July 2009
"All I ever wanted was to be happy, to love and to be loved, and for my life to count for something." If this resonates with your own journey through life then you will love Fiona Mountains latest bestseller Lady of the Butterflies. The book centres on Eleanor Glanvilles life as she struggles with the messages the world reflects back to her about who she is, it is a story of love, lust, longing,loss and triumph over adversity and I couldnt put it down. One of my favourite books of all time.
If you are looking for a book to take on holiday or curl up with during those autumn evenings by the fire I would throughly recommend this book.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 30 July 2010
As the story begins, Oliver Cromwell and the Parliamentarians are out and Charles Stuart is in. Eleanor is the daughter of Major William Goodricke, a strict Puritan and former soldier in Cromwell's army. Her father dies, leaving the family's estate in Somerset, Tickenham Court, to a very young Eleanor. Her ward-ship is given to a like-minded associate of her father's and he eventually marries her off to Edmund Ashfield. Eleanor loves her husband (so she thinks) but what about Edmund's great friend, the dashing and ever so charming cavalier Richard Glanville who sets her heart a-flutter?

Eleanor settles into married life and motherhood, but the lure of the butterflies sends her flitting about the countryside in chase of them. Tragedy strikes, leaving Eleanor widowed - can she resist the charms of the oh-so-hunky Richard Glanville or will she keep her independence and control of her property? Well you know I'm not going to tell you but let's just say that events start taking a dark turn and her fascination with the butterflies has spooked the superstitious country folk and leaving her vulnerable to accusations of madness and witchcraft. Can she hold onto her property and her freedom? Or will she lose it all?

"no one who was not deprived of their senses would go in pursuit of butterflies"

This was a beautifully written novel, and one I had a hard time putting down. A lot of time is spent on Eleanor and her beloved butterflies, as well as the debates over whether or not to drain the fens (a very hot issue among the commonors) and may not suit readers liking their books action packed with heroines leaping tall buildings in a single bound, but for those who want to sit back and savor some lovely prose with a glass of red wine or a box of chocolates (or both!) this should do quite nicely. As very little of Eleanor's life is known outside of birth, death and whom she married, the author has plenty of *wiggle room* to weave her story as she sees it. Things did get just a wee bit melodramatic (the big search is all I'll say), but a surprising ending and not one I saw coming at all. Eleanor is a passionate woman in this book, and you will find some sex in this book, but I didn't find it gratuitous.
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on 21 October 2009
Once again I find myself in the minority by not liking a book everyone else loves. I think I would feel more comfortable awarding it two and a half stars, as I'm not writing this review to say this is a bad book - I can't say, as I didn't get very far. The thing that was immediately noticeable was the overuse of adjectives. However, I carried on reading until eventually I started getting that 'sinking heart' feeling that descends on me whenever I know I'm not going to like a book. There is some clunky writing, pretty much from the word go, but the final straw came when I read - 'It was not wrong to want to be happy, to want all the things I badly wanted'. Others might think that I'm making a fuss, but of course it's just down to personal taste and what you find acceptable when reading a book. It's a bit of a shame, as I think there is probably a good story in there somewhere - it just wasn't for me. Don't let me put you off reading it as other people have given it glowing reviews, as with everything in life it is always best to make your own mind up.
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This novel is based on the life of Eleanor Glanville who, in the aftermath of the English Civil War, devoted much of her life to the study of butterflies. In the process, Eleanor Glanville became one of England's first natural scientists at a time when this was most assuredly not a role for ladies and when difference and witchcraft was often seen as synonymous.

Eleanor Glanville (c1654-1709) grew up in the marshlands of Somerset, raised by her father (a Puritan soldier) as the heir to the rich estates of her late mother. After her father dies, Eleanor marries Edmund Ashfield and, in accordance with the law, cedes all legal rights to him. After Edmund dies, Eleanor marries Richard Glanville - after acting to protect her rights. The relationship has its problems and Richard feeds rumours that Eleanor is mad in an attempt to wrest control of Tickenham Court (Eleanor's estate) for himself.

This is a story of passionate relationships, of scientific discovery and of a turbulent period in English history: it is part romance and part factual narrative. Eleanor's passion for butterflies and her work with James Petiver is what held my attention. A number of other issues: religious differences; and draining England's fenland with its social and natural impacts added another dimension to the story. Scientific endeavour is never easy, but imagine the challenges for a woman in 17th century England.

I enjoyed this novel - especially the aspects that focussed on the study of butterflies. An interesting work of historical fiction about a fascinating woman.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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VINE VOICEon 5 September 2010
The late seventeenth and early eighteenth century are considered the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment in the western world, but it was certainly not so for women. Because Eleanor Goodricke is taught science from a young age and loves the natural world, she's looked down on by her neighbors and even ostracized at times. Her life is full of austerity due to her father's Puritan roots and her love of science replaces any girlish indulgences. When her father dies, she's alone in the world with Tickenham Court and a guardian who views her as strange, just like the rest of the townspeople do. When Eleanor meets Edmund Ashfield, she falls immediately in love, but she's destined for larger passion with his best friend Richard Glanville. She also furthers the scientific study of butterflies and becomes a female entomologist no matter how strange others consider her.

If there was any doubt that I have revived my interest in historical fiction, this book casts it all aside. It took me five days to read but it was worth each and every one of those days. This was a fascinating book and I was completely drawn into Eleanor's life and loves, both of men and of butterflies. I thought about it when I wasn't reading it and I longed to get back to it in order to find out what was happening. Even though some of the story is immediately apparent just from reading Eleanor's name on the back cover, I didn't feel spoiled at all and instead wondered what would happen and how it would happen.

As with much of the historical fiction I've been reading lately, I have read few books set in this time period and I was fascinated by the changing cultures of the times. The Puritans' reign has waned, but Eleanor still endures a stark childhood and bears the prejudices of the daughter of a man who fought for Oliver Cromwell. This, despite the fact that she is so often prejudiced against herself, reveals the fragility of human prejudice and the ultimately unsubstantial reasons we have for setting ourselves against others. It's that prejudice which proves her undoing in this novel and perhaps in life, even when she discovers some of her long-held beliefs are blatantly untrue and harmful.

Reading this book is a bit like riding a roller coaster. I wanted, just for a minute, for Eleanor's life to be peaceful and calm, for her to spend time with her butterflies and her eventual children and just be. Of course, that must have happened in her actual life, but the book skips to the most eventful periods in order to keep the pace up throughout nearly six hundred pages. It certainly succeds, because despite the time I took to read this book, I was never once bored and never even thought that I wished it was going faster. Trust me, that never happens; usually I become impatient with books after two days!

Mountain freely admits that she's played a little bit with the facts, but it's hard to blame her; Eleanor Glanville did have a thrilling life in reality and she deserves more credit for her scientific study in particular. Mountain has really crafted a wonderful book here, with a gorgeous setting (I could picture the marshes and why Eleanor loved them) and a heroine who is simultaneously a representation of her time and a woman that is perfectly recognizable. Lady of the Butterflies is a fantastic historical fiction read and one that comes highly recommended by me.
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on 1 August 2010
The Lady of the Butterflies is 17th century English heiress and entomologist, Eleanor Glanville. Intense and headstrong, she is raised by a stern Puritan father who encourages her boundless curiosity and delights in her keen intellect, but denies her the unconditional love and joyful experiences she craves. The secret of metamorphosis that she seeks in the butterflies she loves is one she also seeks for herself: "Music and dancing. Singing and pretty clothes. Beauty and colour. Christmas and feasting. Love.--- I knew that all that separated me from light and from life was the thinnest shell. If I could only shore up enough strength to break through and find my way out--"

A lonely child, Eleanor Goodricke grows up roaming the wide Somerset moors and water meadows of her ancestral home, Tickenham Court, and studying their prolific and varied wildlife. From an early age she feels a mystical connection with the land and a sense of responsibility for the people of the estate she will inherit. But Eleanor is different, and it is dangerous for a woman to be different. At a time when learned men in London are enthusiastically exploring the sciences of the natural world, rural people cling stubbornly to their old ways and prejudices. Women are still taken up as witches. A beautiful but tiny golden-haired sprite, Eleanor seems like one of the fairy-folk regarded with superstitious dread by her tenants, and her scientific experiments arouse their fear of sorcery.

In her desire to find love, Eleanor throws herself headlong into marriage, but struggles to reconcile her Puritan upbringing with her passionate nature. She marries twice, but the one man who truly understands her is kindred-spirit and fellow entomologist, James Petiver. As they watch the miracle of a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis he tells her, "You are a glorious, lawless little creature, Eleanor Glanville. You should belong to no one. You were born to be as free as the Red Admirals".

"Lady of the Butterflies" is the story of a turbulent life set in the turbulent, perilous Restoration period. Scars from the Civil War are still raw when conflict spreads to Somerset with Monmouth's Rebellion and its bloody aftermath, followed by the overthrow of Stuart king James II in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Proposals by wealthy gentlemen investors to drain the Somerset Levels are met with bitter and violent opposition from those who make their living from the wetlands, following a centuries-old way of life. A woman born ahead of her time, Eleanor is fearless in her search for knowledge, love, happiness and fulfillment. Her vivid, restless spirit shines through this captivating novel like one of the glowing golden butterflies for which she is named.

The author provides both a Historical Note, and an Acknowledgements section with an extensive bibliography. Further background information can be found at her website

"Lady of the Butterflies" is scheduled for reissue in September 2010 under the title "Rebel Heiress"
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on 17 May 2012
I have said that I would only rate a book 5 stars when I have found the ultimate book, however, on reflection I feel that although this is not THE book, Im also not sure really whether I will ever truly find that book. It is absolutely well worth the 5 though. I loved it from the beginning, I literally started it on the aeroplane and finished it coming back two weeks later. It is a big book but it keeps you hooked whilst you are sunbathing or just sitting on a balcony watching the sun go down. Set in Somerset which is also one of my favourite locations in the UK and I was also able to recommend this to my friend who moved to Somerset recently. This is about Eleanor Glanville who became one of the most outstanding entomologists in history, I love that, I love butterflies, they are so peaceful and beautiful, this book was all that as well and a love story and it also details a great friendship that evolves between her and a really eminent scientist. It does have a dark side also as she struggles with acceptance. I do really feel this is a book for a female, Im not sure if a chap would like it? But for one of those holiday reads, or a curl up at night read, or if you are searching for a big engrossing read ,,,, buy it.
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on 20 April 2013
I stumbled across this book under the title of Rebel Heiress but I must say I far prefer the title Lady of the Butterflies. I enjoyed this book and found it very atmospheric and particularly enjoyed the sections on butterflies. It evoked great images of the environment in England during the 17th century and sat in my living room I was transported to another world. The relationship Eleanor had with her children was very touching and more believable than some aspects of her relationships with the men in her life. That being said the romantic elements were at times very compelling and I related to her dilemmas of which relationship to pursue. Towards the end it got a little far fetched and I found it rushed. That being said it led me to reflect on many issues such as the plight of women during that period, the excitement of working with science and natural history at a time of such discovery and finally the consequences and destruction that man seems to bring to natural environments. Would recommend but must stress it is not historically accurate in all aspects of the life of Eleanor Goodricke.
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