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The Behaviour Of Moths Paperback – 2 Jul 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (2 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844084884
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844084883
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 256,477 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

** 'The Behaviour of Moths by Poppy Adams is a debut and new and emphatic voice; this story of the reunion of two batty sisters in their huge and crumbling house completely grips and the lepidopteran theme is totally convincing. (Rodney Troubridge, Waterstone's)

** 'A rewarding read. Latent rivalries resurface as the sisters secretly question which of them has the greater grip on reality in this tantalising family mystery. (Waterstones Books Quarterly)

** 'Adams succeeds in carefully building up an atmosphere of penumbral suspense, creeping towards a tense climax. (LITERARY REVIEW)

** 'Adam s' compelling story unfurls over a single weekend as two sisters, together again in their sixties in their dilapidated family home, are forced to confront the consequences fo the terrible chain of events that began with Vivien's near-fatal childh (PSYCHOLOGIES)

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

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Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback
I had to think long and hard after finishing this intriguing novel, laden with atmosphere, mystery, suspense, moths and family secrets.

The story is narrated by Ginny, one of two estranged sisters, with vastly different recollections of their childhood and early adulthood 50 years past. The conflict between the two sisters accounts of their childhoods is never satisfyingly or conclusively resolved, so if like me, you like resolution this may not be the book for you.

That said, the central character Ginny, provides an entertaining narrative from her potentially autistic (like so many other matters this is alluded to though never confirmed) though clearly emotionally impaired perspective. Unlike some other reviewers I found her a likeable albeit clearly flawed individual. Her sister, on the other hand, I found jarring in the same manner Ginny experienced - which is perhaps indicative of the quality of the writing. Whilst Ginny may not be the most reliable narrator there is little evidence to suggest little sister Vivi can be trusted to a greater extent.

Perspective is everything to this novel. The lack of a definitive resolution ensures that you're left to draw your own conclusions from the minds of two dysfunctional characters.
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Format: Hardcover
My book group read this book, and it split the group into camps - one person hated it, two loved it (one even loved it so much she read the whole book in one day) a couple liked it pretty much, and the others didn't get very far into reading it. I was in the 'liked it pretty much' camp. It certainly generated lots of discussion. It has a perfect example of an unreliable narrator, and a lot of the discussion was about how much of Ginny's story we could believe, with opinions varying from pretty much none of it, to most of it. I thought it was a compelling read (and even the girl who hated it said she wanted to keep reading, and she hated it because she didn't like Ginny's character, and she didn't like all the detail about moth catching and killing). I do like books that tell you about stuff like the moth detail in this book, so that didn't put me off. The book felt pretty claustrophobic, and none of us (apart from the girl who hated it) saw the end coming, so most of us were suitably shocked.
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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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