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Butterfly's Child

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  876 Ratings  ·  180 Reviews
When three-year-old Benji is plucked from the security of his home in Nagasaki to live with his American father, Lt. Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, and stepmother, Kate, on their farm in Illinois, the family conceals Benji’s true identity as a child born from a liaison between an officer and a geisha—and instead tells everyone that he is an orphan. When the truth surfaces, i ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 10th 2012 by The Dial Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,883)
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Jun 05, 2011 Felice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Butterfly's Child is a first for me. It is a novel that continues an opera. The opera is Puccini's Madama Butterfly and the novel is the What If story of her son. Most of us have absorbed the basic unhappy love story of Madama Butterfly through pop culture osmosis without ever having seen any production. In the early 20th century a beautiful Geisha named enters a marriage contract with an American navel officer, Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton. The Geisha falls deeply in love with her hus ...more
Jan 02, 2012 Cyndi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I am not an opera fan and did not know the story of Madam Butterfly but you don't need to in order to understand the book. The plot is told and I am sure I got more out of the quick synopsis than I would have by viewing the opera.

Benji is a product of a naval seaman's affair with a geisha. When he returns with his American wife, the geisha arranges the events of her suicide that leave Benji's dad and his wife with no alternative but to take the boy back to America as an "unfortunate orphan" to
Jun 03, 2011 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Butterfly's Child, an exquisite book, beautifully written, satisfied me as a writer, a voracious reader, and an opera nut. The first time around I read this novel as fast as I could, pulled through it by the fascinating plot. Then I read it again to enjoy the writing and study the technique.

I first saw Madame Butterfly in 1984, and was even then intrigued and curious about what happened to Trouble (or Sorrow, depending on the translation), the little boy who was left behind when Cio Cio San comm
Karen M
This book was and was not what I expected but it will pull you into the story with it's well drawn characters and fast paced storyline.

This is a story which I thought initially was based on a single lie being told. This lie affected the lives of the characters' to differing degrees, some in a seemingly horrific way. The lies come back again and again to destroy the relationships and lives of the characters.

Frank Pinkerton tells the first lie when he promises to return to Butterfly. His intention
From the synopsis:

"When three-year-old Benji is plucked from the security of his home in Nagasaki to live with his American father, Lt. Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, and stepmother, Kate, on their farm in Illinois, the family conceals Benji’s true identity as a child born from a liaison between an officer and a geisha, and instead tells everyone that he is an orphan.

Frank struggles to keep the farm going while coping with his guilt and longing for the deceased Butterfly. Deeply devout Kate is tor
Edward Mccann
May 07, 2011 Edward Mccann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
This is a masterpiece. Angela Davis-Gardner's story of what happens after the last aria of Madame Butterfly is poignant and beautifully crafted. As a reader, I felt I'd traveled through time to meet and observe these characters whom Puccini named and compelled to sing, but whom Davis-Gardner brings to life in ways that surprise and satisfy.

Of all the assessments I've read to date, I think the writer for Kirkus Reviews said it best: "In its way, (Butterfly's Child) holds its own alongside the mod
Mar 13, 2012 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Interesting take on the story from Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly. I was drawn in enough to stay up until 2:00 a.m. to finish the book in a single day. My heart broke for Benji, the little boy who didn't really fit in either world, and for Kate, who worked so hard to love Benji and take care of him but suffered so much from the daily reminder of her husband's love for another woman.

Not going to spoil the ending, but I was surprised by how Ms. Davis-Gardner incorporated the opera into the story
Aug 14, 2011 Megan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this; I read it in less than two days. It's the first piece of fiction I've read in quite a while, and was a good way to get back into the genre. The story begins where the opera Madame Butterfly left off: after the ritual suicide of Cio-Cio, the butterfly of the opera, her son Benji is taken back to the United States by his American father, Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, the sailor who broke Cio-Cio's heart, and Kate, Franklin's new wife. The beautiful writing is almost unbearabl ...more
Apr 27, 2011 Roy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As an opera nut and a particular fan of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly," I cannot separate my long immersion in the opera's plot from my enjoyment and appreciation of Davis-Gardner's imaginative take on what might have happened to Butterfly's son, Benji, after he was taken to America by his father. However, I think the novel works as a stand-alone story, as Davis-Gardner supplies enough of the opera's plot to fill in for those who don't know it.

I think anyone who has been uprooted from familiar su
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Recently I've been dealing with a lot of stress and tragedy in my personal life, so a book with a tragic central premise would not have been my first pick. Frankly, if I didn't have to review this one, I probably wouldn't have picked it up -- and I would have lost out on a truly moving, deliciously sad read.

Inspired by Puccini's opera, Madame Butterfly, the story is set in the late 1890s and follows Benji, a half-Japanese, half-American boy born to a Nagasaki geisha, Cio-Cio. He's adopted at age
Jeannette Katzir
I just finished Butterfly's Child.
I was surprised to discover that this book is the continuation of the story of Madame Butterfly.
I found the first 100 pages of the book difficult, not because they weren't written well, because they were, but because I didn't like any of the characters and that included the unfortunate little boy. I understand his life was turned on its head, but I felt to pity for him after a certain point. Then toward the 100th page I did and that's when the book picked up.
Carolyn Lind
Aug 08, 2011 Carolyn Lind rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Inspired by Puccini's Madame Butterfly, this novel tells the story of Butterfly's child who is suddenly wrenched from his mother at the end of the opera. What will happen to this small orphan, tragically bereft of the only parent he knows?

Told from a variety of viewpoints, the reader sees the rippliing effect of choices; observes truth so frequently is not as it appears; is reminded that love entwined with forgiveness is still the greatest of these.

Butterfly's Child is a story of journeys in m
Jul 17, 2015 Faith rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting premise, taking the story of the opera Madam Butterfly and imagining what might have happened after that well known story ends. Not a bad story, but the prose is a bit stilted and the ending was abrupt, almost as if the author had to hurry to meet a publishing deadline. The characters are realistic, sympathetic, and well-developed, but the story line gets bogged down in melodrama and the big "reveal' in the end is really over the top.Not sure I'd bother to check out any other titles ...more
Apr 01, 2011 Brandy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Abuela Linda
Jul 28, 2016 Abuela Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An audible edition is not listed, but I listened to this book downloaded from It is the story of what happened after Benji, Butterfly's son, when to the United States with his father, Pinkerton, and his American wife, Kate. The wife resented him and he and his father become alienated. Eventually he makes his way back to Nagasaki and his love for Japan sustains him. It was his dream to return. There are some implausible parts--if he was only three years old when he left, I find it su ...more
Apr 09, 2011 Brenda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
“Bufferfly’s Child" by Angela Davis Gardner opens with a synopsis of the opera “Madame Butterfly” to set the backdrop for this haunting psychological story that manages to destroy the fragile family dynamics that evolve mainly around Benji, the offspring of “Butterfly” and Officer Pinkerton. Because of his mother’s “suicide”, Pinkerton and his new bride, Kate, feel obligated to take Benji home to America and to hide the truth of his birth. Thus begins the little untruths that lead to larger comp ...more
Mar 16, 2011 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought it was interesting and a bit eerie that this book came in the mail the same day that the earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan. Although I was already curious about the book since it is the continuation of Madame Butterfly (which I admit, I've never seen), I think the timing made it more interesting. Especially since it would be at a time when there was not so much earthly destruction. Therefore, I admit the recent events may have colored my reading of this story.

You do not have to h
Jan 11, 2012 Melinda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Judging by the synopsis, I was hoping that this book contained more potential. Only being vaguely familiar with the opera "Madama Butterfly", I anticipated that this book would provide an enticing subplot as well as the continuation of the story. It did attempt both, but the story fell flat and predictable so often, that I became eager to have it come to an end. Frank Pinkerton is, at best, an odious character; closed, cruel and resentful. His wife, Kate, had some possibility in the beginning, b ...more
I liked the idea of "Butterfly's Child" (old opera buff me) and I'd probably give it another star for quality of writing and readability. However, the expression of the premise is just not convincing. I enjoyed the book but didn't buy the story for a minute.

The story of Madame Butterfly: Butterfly is a 15 year-old Japanese girl who is sold to a US naval officer as a bride for his stay in Nagasaki. The officer, Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, leaves her pregnant, although neither know this when he s
Tranna Foley
Jun 29, 2012 Tranna Foley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lt. Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton and his devout wife, Kate, bring three-year-old Benji from Nagasaki to live with them on their Illinois farm in the late nineteenth century, claiming he is an orphan, but when it becomes known that Benji is the son of Benjamin and a geisha, shock runs throughout their entire community, and Benji is freed to explore his own identity and the truth about his mother's death. - Destiny catalog record

I agree with this review from Publisher's Weekly:
Immediately engaging,
Aug 06, 2011 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The central figure in this story is the child Benji born to the Japanese geisha who is Madama Butterfly in Puccini's opera by that name. The book's story begins around 1890, near the end of the Butterfly opera's story. After his mother commits hari-kari when he is 5 years old, Benji is taken to America by his father and step-mother. Each family member's understanding of Benji's origins plays a major role in the evolution of the family's situation in America and the thoughts and developing world ...more
Ann Collette
Nov 06, 2011 Ann Collette rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
MADAMA BUTTERFLY is a passionate, deeply moving opera. For years, though, I only admired the music without ever getting caught up in the drama, because I found Butterfly such a fool and Pinkerton, her American husband, such a cad. Perhaps age softened my harsh judgement because now the opera touches me deeply. So when I read a very positive review of this book in an issue of OPERA NEWS, I was quite intrigued. Unfortunately, I found this book a major disappointment. Time showed me that in the ope ...more
Apr 04, 2012 Patty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Madame Butterfly, the famous opera by Puccini is the driving force behind Butterfly's Child, the novel (the opera being based on a short story.) Ms. Davis-Gardner imagines the story behind the opera and presents it as it might have happened.

From the beginning there is a feeling of both despair and hope mixed into the writing. Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, a naval officer has his affair with Cio-Cio (Butterfly) and he leaves not knowing of the birth of his son. Butterfly sits waiting, knowing tha
Oct 10, 2012 Stephanie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Butterfly’s Child is a novel full of family drama that illustrates clearly what happens when secrets are hidden and lies are told. I have not read anything else from Davis-Gardner, but I found the writing style in this novel somewhat flat. Though I could see what was happening most of the time, I was left feeling unsatisfied.

I found the characters predictable and boring. Benji follows a path that I anticipated early on, so it was no surprise to me when he ran away from home to try to find out ab
Jul 05, 2012 Janet rated it really liked it
Shelves: nbd-biblion
This novel is a sequel to Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly. But where the opera is concerned with the dramatic love between Lt. Pinkerton and the Japanese geisha Butterfly, the novel is about Benji, the child of these two lovers. When Benji is a toddler, his mother commits suicide and he is taken away to America to live with his father and stepmother on a farm. After many difficulties Benji settles in but there remain a lot of issues between the three of them. Benji wants to know more about his ...more
Dec 06, 2013 Nikki rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in the late 1800's/early 1900's. Benji is the son of the Japanese geisha Cio-Cio and the American Lt. Pinkerton. When Cio-Cio learns that Pinkerton has returned to Japan with a wife, she commits suicide in desperation to save her son from a fatherless life on the streets of Japan. Pinkerton and his new wife Kate take Benji back to their Illinois farm and attempt to raise him under the guise of Christian charity, while keeping his true origins a secret.

Benji grows up as a minority and an oddi
Oct 06, 2012 Mr.Nourok rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-2013

It seems that I'm drawn to books that are intertwined or linked with their predecessors. Butterfly's Child is the offspring, as it were, of the opera Madame Butterfly. It begins where the opera ends, with the death of butterfly, a Japanese geisha. She commits suicide when she learns that her lover, the American naval captain Pinkerton, will not return to her. In the opera and this novel, she leaves behind a son, who is also Pinkerton's child. This is where the opera ends. In the novel, however,
melanie (lit*chick)
Apr 13, 2012 melanie (lit*chick) rated it liked it
a 3.5 really

Triple bonus points if you recognized the main characters of Madame Butterfly in the above description. For those not familiar with Puccini's opera, like me, you will quickly be brought up to speed with a helpful summary contained in the preface. From there the tale of young Benji takes off with a unique coming of age story that spans two continents. In the face of harsh and unyielding conditions, Benji's spirit never wanes. Author Davis-Gardner's extensive knowledge of Japan - its c
Nov 27, 2010 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story from the actual Opera, Madame Butterfly, continues through to the USA with Benji growing up on his father, Lt. Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton's Illinois farm. This story reminded me of what an entire season of the TV show Little House on the Prairie might have been like if they'd injected a Japanese kid in to this early 20th century hardscrabble period. Though this particular season would end in a beautiful spot outside Nagasaki. Benji's parents, Kate and Frank are hiding the fact that he ...more
Best book I've read all summer. Couldn't wait to turn the page and see what happens next to Benji, Frank, Kate, Keast, etc. It was a tragic and heartbreaking read but it was so good. The author, Angela Davis-Gardner, imagines what happens where the story leaves off in the Madama Butterfly opera. The author gave a synopsis of the opera at the beginning of the book (very helpful). Wonderful imaginative story.
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Great book! 3 12 Aug 09, 2012 08:19PM  
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