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In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia…
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In the Time of the Butterflies (original 1994; edition 1994)

by Julia Alvarez

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2,641602,264 (4.09)105
Member:owen1218
Title:In the Time of the Butterflies
Authors:Julia Alvarez
Info:Algonquin Books (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:novel, historical fiction, Dominican Republic, women, resistance, sisters, Latin America, dictatorship, repression

Work details

In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez (1994)

Recently added byparasolofdoom, jsalmeron, richele.barry, ericarenee, private library, pwsalay, mmeros
  1. 30
    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (weener)
    weener: Oscar Wao mentions In the Time of the Butterflies in a footnote. Both dealing so gracefully with the Trujillo regime, they seem like complementary books.
  2. 00
    Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter by Carmen Aguirre (owen1218)
  3. 00
    I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman In Guatemala by Rigoberta Menchu (cammykitty)
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    Child of the Revolution: Growing up in Castro's Cuba by Luis M. Garcia (somavolta)
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English (56)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (59)
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
A beautiful novel about the Mirabal sisters, who were brutally murdered by the waning Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic. It is told in chapters narrated in the very different voices of the four sisters: Ded̩ who survives, Patria the oldest and most Christian, Minerva the activist revolutionary from a young age, and Maria Teresa the baby of the family whose chapters are her diary.

It is also one of the great novels of a semi-totalitarian government and what it means for a group of young women growing up outside the capital. It makes for an interesting pairing with Mario Vargas Llosa's The Feast of the Goat, which covers much of the same period, has some of the same events, but does it all from a different perspective. The difference is that In the Time of the Butterflies is much more subtle. It has the same torture, de facto child rape by Trujillo and other horrors, but all of it is more understated and seen through the eyes of the girls in the story. That all makes the one episode where torture is more directly described that much more powerful. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
In her Postscript, Alvarez wrote that she wanted the book to "immerse my readers in an epoch in the life of the Dominican Republic." I think she succeeded magnificently. She tells the story of the Trujillo era, when the small island republic was under the heel of one of the more notorious dictators of Latin America. She tells it by giving us a fictionalized account of the Mirabel sisters, known as the "Mariposas" (butterflies) who are national heroes.

If you'd have described this book to me, I'd have thought this would not likely be a book I'd like, let alone love. A book centered on a cell of communist revolutionaries involved in bomb-making who name their children after Che Guevera? NO! And this has these little quirks of literary fiction that often seem so artificial to me: shifts in narrative from present to past tense, from first to third person, portions in diary format, jumps in time. And I'm suspicious of works of "creative non-fiction" that blur the distinction between fact and fiction. Well, to take these things in reverse order, this isn't creative non-fiction. As Alvarez wrote in her postscript, the Mirabel sisters of this story are her invention, her creation. This is a novel, not fictionalized non-fiction--that's apparent from the start and I think made the story all the more powerful--she's not afraid to entirely inhabit her characters. Second, she's a master storyteller who kept me riveted from beginning to end--and this despite that she opens the novel with the surviving sister being visited by someone researching the story of the Mirabel sisters--so we know they're doomed from the start. Which lends only poignancy--and strangely suspense--to what follows. I was never jarred by the shifts in time, tense, point-of-view and narrative technique--Alvarez is that good.

And yes, I did care about the sisters. I didn't care for the one novel by Isabel Allende I'd tried, a celebrated Latin American author--Allende's novel seemed such naked Marxist propaganda to me. I never felt that way about In the Time of the Butterflies. Alvarez's novel is not polemic. It's a very personal, intimate story of four sisters and she's great at making them all very different from each other. I never had a problem keeping Patria, Dede, Minerva, and Maria Teresa apart--they all had such different voices, dreams and motivations. It was easy to identify with them and understand their choices. And it probably helped that I felt at home with her characters. My mother is Puerto Rican--it's not so different in culture to the Dominican Republic, and there were little phrases and details throughout where I felt a little shock of recognition. Alvarez evoked her time and place so well I felt I had visited there. It's hard to think of a higher compliment to give a novelist. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Dec 16, 2013 |
As I was reading this book, I thought a good 4 stars... Now that I am finished, I will give it 5 and the reason is certainly the account of the surviving sister, Dede, at the end. Of the four sisters, she is the most interesting and captivating, as her almost indifference to the revolution yet her dedication and love towards her sisters sets her up to be perhaps the most complicated and conflicted character in the book. In the end, her feelings about having to receive the accounts of those who almost witnessed the death of her sisters (this is not a spoiler, as form the very beginning we know this will happen, one way or another), those who shared their final moments of peace before they went on their way back from visiting their husbands in prison, the questions that floats in her head as she listens to people who offer condolences, and her search for a purpose for herself in the grand scheme of things, in this revolution that took too long to achieve anything, made up the most intriguing part of the book.
Overall, the book is well-written in Spanish, and the four voices of the sisters are distinct and each one is presented with a narrative that fleshes out their differences in character and in motivation as well as giving the historical account of what might have happened throughout their lives. The author's disclaimer at the end about the half-based-on-fact and half-imaginary nature of the historical narrative was also enlightening (I am not sure if this included in all editions...)
( )
  bluepigeon | Dec 15, 2013 |
A hauntingly beautiful book about the Mirabal sisters, who were murdered for fighting against a dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in 1960. What is most compelling about the book are the ordinary domestic details that bring each sister to life. Highly recommended. ( )
  twopairsofglasses | May 30, 2013 |
For SCP bookclub in December; Erin's suggestion. I wanted to like it more than I did.
  ljhliesl | May 21, 2013 |
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Book description
On a deserted mountain road in the Dominican Republic in 1960, three young women from a pious Catholic family were assassinated after visiting their husbands who had been jailed as suspected rebel leaders. The Mirabal sisters, thus martyred, became mythical figures in their country, where they are known as Las Mariposas (the butterflies). Three decades later, Julia Alvarez, daughter of the Dominican Republic and author of the acclaimed How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, brings the Mirabal sisters back to life in this extraordinary novel. Each of the sisters speaks in her own voice, beginning as young girls in the 1940s, their stories vary from hair ribbons to gun-running to prison torture. Their story is framed by their surviving sister who tells her own tale of suffering and dedication to the memory of Las Mariposas. This inspired portrait of four women is a haunting statement about the human cost of political oppression, and is destined to take its place alongside Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude and Allende's The House of the Spirits as one of the great 20th-century Latin American novels.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0452274427, Paperback)

From the author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents comes this tale of courage and sisterhood set in the Dominican Republic during the rise of the Trujillo dictatorship. 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, in 1960, were murdered for their part in an underground plot to overthrow the government. Alvarez breathes life into these historical figures--known as "las mariposas," or "the butterflies," in the underground--as she imagines their teenage years, their gradual involvement with the revolution, and their terror as their dissentience is uncovered.

Alvarez's controlled writing perfectly captures the mounting tension as "the butterflies" near their horrific end. The novel begins with the recollections of Dede, the fourth and surviving sister, who fears abandoning her routines and her husband to join the movement. Alvarez also offers the perspectives of the other sisters: brave and outspoken Minerva, the family's political ringleader; pious Patria, who forsakes her faith to join her sisters after witnessing the atrocities of the tyranny; and the baby sister, sensitive Maria Teresa, who, in a series of diaries, chronicles her allegiance to Minerva and the physical and spiritual anguish of prison life.

In the Time of the Butterflies is an American Library Association Notable Book and a 1995 National Book Critics Circle Award nominee.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:27:47 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Set during the waning days of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republica in 1960, this novel tells the story the Mirabal sisters, three young wives and mothers who are assassinated after visiting their jailed husbands. On a deserted mountain road in the Dominican Republic in 1960, three young women from a pious Catholic family were assassinated after visiting their husbands who had been jailed as suspected rebel leaders. The Mirabal sisters, thus martyred, became mythical figures in their country, where they are known as Las Mariposas (the butterflies). Three decades later, Julia Alvarez, daughter of the Dominican Republic and author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, brings the Mirabal sisters back to life in this novel. Each of the sisters speaks in her own voice; beginning as young girls in the 1940s, their stories vary from hair ribbons to gun-running to prison torture. Their story is framed by their surviving sister who tells her own tale of suffering and dedication to the memory of Las Mariposas. This portrait of four women is a haunting statement about the human cost of political oppression.… (more)

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