The Butterfly Month: Ariella Kornmehl

The Butterfly Month is amust-read foranyone whoenjoyed Disgrace byJ.M. Coetzee.

Post-apartheidSouth Africa isin this instance chronicled by ayoung doctor, Joni, who has fledHolland to work in the emergencysection of a large hospital. Joni’sdays are rigid and controlled – sheis unaffected by her work, despitethe high proportion of patientswho are victims of terrible crimes,and the high mortality rate. Inaddition to her self-imposed exile,Joni also denies herself food, love,sex and friendship. It is not untilshe connects in a meaningful waywith her African housemaidZanele, and her two children, thatJoni’s reasons for leaving Hollandbecome painfully clear.

This bookis simply and beautifully written,and the first-person perspectivedrew me in straight away. This is abook about loss, and the extremeswe are prepared to endure toprevent further loss. Both Joni andZanele are fascinating, crediblecharacters, and their respectivestories are told in gradual flashbacks,without self-pity.

The Butterfly Month was translated fromDutch, and the translator has donea marvellous job; the story is clear,strong and seamless.