Monday, 4 August 2014

Book Review: The Behaviour of Moths


I'm finally back from the UK, and I've got a week before I'm off on holiday again. I did a fair bit of shopping while I was away and I've got a haul or two coming up soon, so I thought it was time for a quick book review to get back to my blog's roots, so to speak, and break up the fashion posts slightly.

The Behaviour of Moths by Poppy Adams

I bought The Behaviour of Moths about four months ago at secondhand book sale at school, and promptly forgot about it until I was looking for something to take to read on my travels in the UK last time. To be entirely honest, I first picked it up because I felt the cover told a story which intrigued me, and now I can verify that it does indeed tell a story - of "madness, sibling rivalry and lepidoptera", to quote the Guardian's review. The red house is the crumbling family mansion which forms the setting for Ginny and Vivien Stone's childhood, and in Ginny's case, her lifelong home. The two white silhouettes in front of the house are the two sisters as young girls, a period which Ginny revisits often in her extensive trips down memory lane, and the two figures in the upstairs windows are both Ginny, who has rarely left the house in all her 70-something years, watching the outside world from her various vantage points. The scattering of moths at the bottom are also extremely significant; for generations lepidoptera (the study of moths and butterflies) has been the family expertise, and the novel is awash with information on how best to capture and experiment on the insects. The mark of Poppy Adams' skill as a novelist lies in turning such a topic, thoroughly boring to the vast majority of people, into something if not fascinating, at least of relative interest.

The story is told from Ginny's point of view, aged 72, first as she waits for Vivien to return after not having set foot in the house for 47 years, and then during the first few days of her sister's return. Her presence marks the resurfacing of childhood memories and some darker secrets for Ginny, whose flashbacks and memories of the the younger sister she once adored are interspersed with the reality of the sisters' reunion and Ginny's everyday difficulties due to old age in the present day. Although difficult to slot into a precise genre, the book had the air of a mystery/crime fiction to me, which was helped by Ginny's hazy memory and the persistent questions related to her past which she has never considered, but which spring up in the reader's mind the more we learn about her childhood.

To be honest, I found it difficult to get into this book at first. I read a chapter here and there while I was in the UK with little real enthusiasm for it. But there came a point in story when things started getting somewhat nebulous, which for me sparked a real interest and made me finish the whole thing in an afternoon. It's definitely not a YA novel, and I can imagine few teenagers would enjoy it as much as I did, but I would definitely recommend it to anyone who fancies something different, or has a particular interest in lepidoptera.

Rating: 9/10


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