Monday 6 June 2022

Alvarez, Julia "In the Time of the Butterflies"

Alvarez, Julia "In the Time of the Butterflies" - 1994

This was my first novel taking place in the Dominican Republic. I wanted to read "In the Time of the Butterflies" for ages, somehow I never got to it. The story breaks your heart. As we live in a time of war at our doorstep again, this might be even more important than it was ten years ago, at least in our part of the world. There have always been wars, there have always been dictators. Julia Alvarez tells us about a family that was giving it all, fighting for a free and better life of their compatriots and who paid the highest price possible.

What is amazing in this book is that there are very little things how you can become an enemy of a dictator without even wanting to get involved in the first place. Revolutionaries, or so-called revolutionaries are not always some weird people who stand up and say, hey, I don't like that guy, let's do something about it. Often, there is not much you can do about being on the blacklist. I have read many books about wars or slavery, other dictatorships, and often have found that I probably would have ended up just the same as the protagonists. However, here I am sure I would have, although, having said that, I am not as pretty as the Mirabal sisters were, so I might have gone unnoticed.

What I liked about the style of the book, there are four sisters and they all tell their stories, mostly in a kind of diary. They all get their say and you can see how each one of them thought about the dictator, the country, how each of them was affected in a different way. A little like "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver where the four sisters tell their stories.

There is no page that doesn't captivate you. From the beginning, you are right there, in the middle of the family, living with them, fearing with them.

While this is not a non-fiction book, the novel is based on the life of these courageous women. We need more like them.

Julia Alvarez mentions that she "believes in the power of stories to change the world". I think she contributes to this and must read more by this brilliant storyteller. We need authors like her to make us aware of what is going on in this world and that we should fight for a better one.

One quote I loved a lot:
"I am pro whoever is right at any moment in time." We all should be.

From the back cover:

"They were the four Mirabal sisters - symbols of defiant hope in a country shadowed by dictatorship and despair. They sacrificed their safe and comfortable lives in the name of freedom. They were Las Mariposas, 'The butterflies,' and in this extraordinary novel Patria, Minerva, Maria Teresa, and Dedé speak across the decades to tell their own stories - from tales of hair ribbons and secret crushes to gunrunning to prison torture - and describe the everyday horrors of life under the Dominican dictator Trujillo. Now through the art and magic of Julia Alvarez's imagination, the martyred Butterflies live again in a warm, brilliant, and heartbreaking novel that makes a haunting statement about the human cost of political oppression."

If you don't have the time, yet, to read this fantastic account of some wonderful women, read their story here on Wikipedia.


  1. I love the idea of this novel being told from each sister's POV like a diary. And I don't think I've ever read a book set in the Dominican Republic. :)

    1. Same as you, Lark, I always prefer to get several views. And this was also my first book set in the Dominican Republic but we might read another one soon in our book club.

  2. Thank you for the review, it sounds fascinating. I guess there are no stopping an authoritarian regime, and they all seems to be suffering from paranoia. They probably know deep inside what they, themselves, are up to.

    1. Unfortunately, I have to totally agree with you, Lisbeth. And we see the outcome very well at the present.