In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

butterfliesSet during the waning days of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in 1960, this extraordinary novel tells the story the Mirabal sisters, three young wives and mothers who are assassinated after visiting their jailed husbands. A skillful blend of fact and fiction, In the Time of the Butterflies is inspired by the true story of the three Mirabal sisters who were murdered for their part in an underground plot to overthrow the government. 

This year I’m taking part in a Continental Challenge, where I read one book set in or written by an author from each continent. Up first is South America, for which I selected In the Time of The Butterflies by Julia Alvarez. It’s historical fiction based the Mirabal sisters who were active in attempts to end the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic between the 1940s and 1960 when they were brutally murdered by the regime.

I know absolutely nothing about the Dominican Republic. Honestly beyond knowing it is located in South America I would be doing well to find it on a map, and my knowledge of South American history doesn’t extend much beyond the Voyages of Discovery and the Conquistadors. This therefore was an interesting insight into a particularly turbulent part of a country’s history and their culture.

The Mirabal Sisters: From left to right Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa

The history element aside it is also a book about family and the bond between sisters. The bond between sisters is a funny animal. A strange mix of love, jealousy, and admiration. Alvarez really manages to capture it. All the sisters are widely different. Responsible Patria with her deep faith, practical Dedé always worrying, independent and idealistic Minerva (ringleader in everything that happens) and María Teresa, the baby of the family, kind, loving and always trying to be like Minerva. Different elements of the story are told from the perspective of a different sister, giving us an insight into each of their characters. In the end one is left with an impression of four amazing women, who believed firmly in the freedom of their country, and who when the chips were down would stand by their sisters even in the face of certain death.


4 star

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