In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

A slow burn that leads to an eruption of inspiration, anger, and heartache. This novel is well-worth the time and emotion it takes to read it. The story revolves around the four Maribal sisters, each of whom, in their various ways, oppose the regime and dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. The story begins with the death of three of them — no spoiler there as the synopsis announces this event — and weaves around the events that lead to this tragic outcome. As such, the novel spans three decades, from the late 1930s to 1960. It unfolds through the perspective of each of the sisters, each chapter is narrated in a somewhat epistolary style. Embedded in the tale are themes of gendered violence, patriarchy and women’s resistance to it. Content warning: there is abuse, trauma, and sexualized violence, however, Alvarez does not write these events in gory or graphic detail. Indeed, savory events are worded modestly. Alvarez’s allusions and prose shines in these moments; she reveals much via a simple twist of a phrase. Another point of praise is Alvarez’s smooth and expert weaving of history into the plot. A reader does not need to have much preexisting knowledge of the DR’s modern history to make sense of the novel. Simultaneously, Alvarez conveys a stark history lesson to the reader without being pedantic.

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