Book Review – THE BUTTERFLY PRISON by Tamara Pearson

The Butterfly Prison by Tamara PearsonThe Butterfly Prison Synopsis :

Raw, confronting and playful, The Butterfly Prison redefines criminals, heroes, and poverty.

The Butterfly Prison is a tapestry of vignettes that tells the hushed-up, little stories that unfold within a world characterized by diminishment and shame, the stories of the disenfranchised, the stories of Paz and Mella.

As each fights for dignity in the shadows of poverty, harassment and exploitation, their decisions tell a compelling story of choice, consequence, systematic injustice, and the inner magic of the human constitution.

Tender and thought provoking, unusual and rule-breaking, The Butterfly Prison bites and delights as it redefines our notions of beauty, freedom, heroes, criminals, and war.

(Open Books)


I have deep admiration for the passion Tamara Pearson has ploughed into each page of The Butterfly Prison – the pain, the violence, the abuse, the struggle and absence of hope.

At this novel’s outset I was struck by the raw, yet highly literary prose, the powerful use of symbolism and beguiling, childlike ‘combination descriptors’ and ‘naming of feelings’, and the interest and engagement fostered by Pearson’s framework of vignettes.

It was October 2008 and the butterflies of Zimbabwe were falling out of the four metre tall grass onto piles of dead dry wings. A new butterfly slipped out of its cocoon and its wet wings stuck to the hot dirt and tore. For a few days it walked around and around and fell over and got up and stumbled more. If flapped uselessly, then after a long torment, it died too. So went the lives of many people in Zimbabwe as their wings were torn by hyperinflation, closed hospitals, unemployment, scarce food, and no transport. The buried their butterflies every day at 5pm.

The broad applicability of the messages within The Butterfly Prison are initially its strength but as with many intense passions, a lack of restraint or focus can morph into weakness. While all but the most ignorant would agree there exists terrible injustice in the world, our willingness to attribute labels to its cause/origins will depend on our individual perspectives – inextricably linked to our experiences and personalities.

Maybe he died when the car chase started, or ….. or when he committed the crime of being born into unemployment and poverty in a world where the poor are framed for the crimes of the rich.

As much as I was moved by the concepts, imagery and ideas explored within The Butterfly Prison, there were times when I felt the vignette’s focus became a little wayward, and the word ‘victim’ (what I call the ‘capital V’ version) used a little too often. While I abhor ignorance and have personally experienced challenges in many forms, I’ve always found a glass half-full approach most beneficial longer term. I think this novel’s 350 pages of content could have been filtered/refined to enhance its resonance.

While we may not all agree on the societal construct offered as a solution to the problems identified within The Butterfly Prison, the power of highlighting and drawing broader attention to these struggles via contemporary literature is in no doubt.

BOOK RATING: The Story 3 / 5 ; The Writing 3.5 / 5

The Butterfly Prison by Tamara Pearson
Available from:
Book Depository | Amazon | Booktopia | Scribd (Free 1 Month Trial)

Genre: Literature, Drama

This review counts towards my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2015 and the 2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge.

Author Information: 

Tamara Pearson is a writer, journalist, activist and teacher. Currently based in Ecuador as an editor for an international news organization, she has been a journalist for 14 years, working from Venezuela as a reporter and respected analyst, as well as for Green Left Weekly in Australia. She has also written for a range of other media in English and Spanish in Bolivia, Mexico, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, and more.

She campaigned for refugee rights and against the war in Iraq in Australia, and was involved in community organizing in Venezuela.

She also worked at an alternative school in Venezuela promoting creativity and imagination as tools for expression and empowerment.

Other reviews of The Butterfly Prison:  TeleSur

* My receiving a copy of this book from the author for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions in the review above.