The Sound of Butterflies
Rachael King
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Sound of Butterflies

3.34 of 5 stars 3.34  ·  rating details  ·  574 ratings  ·  131 reviews
It is 1903 when Thomas Edgar says goodbye to his young wife Sophie and embarks on a journey to the Amazon, where he dreams of finding a mythical butterfly that will make both his name and his fortune. His dreams change, however, soon after his arrival in Brazil . . . Months later, Thomas arrives home, thin, sick and, worst of all, unable - or unwilling - to speak. Frustrat...more
Published September 4th 2008 by Picador USA (first published March 27th 2007)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,171)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
A novel with the common theme of The White Man entering a primal jungle and finding himself succumbing to his primal instincts. This one is a bit different. The protagonist Thomas, loves butterflies. I mean he really loves butterflies "When he caught sight of his first Morphos, their blue wings shining in the sun like stained glass, he felt a familiar stirring in his trousers. This was something he couldn't explain and had long ago given up trying to. Ever since he was a young lad, his body had...more
Marianne Elliott
Aug 13, 2007 Marianne Elliott rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys a gripping adventure with brains
Shelves: fiction
It took me a while to find a way in to writing a review of this wonderful book. I felt that the fact that the author is one of my most treasured friends might be influencing my objectivity and yet, I knew that this was a great book. It is a good read, but I also think it is an important book, one that challenges the reader to face unpleasant truths about our flawed human nature and one that addresses a question that I believe we each must answer for ourselves in the face of the terrible injustic...more
Good story- extremely violent and gory in some parts so not for everyone, but interesting to read about the rubber barons in Brazil and their financial connection to Europe. It is a story of the many physical and moral dilemmas a man must face while on a butterfly expedition in the Amazon in 1904 which render him mute upon his return to his wife, Sophie. Through his journal entries and past letters, Sophie attempts to piece together what has happened to her beloved husband during his travels.
Margo Kelly
Can you give a book zero stars on goodreads?

I am so disappointed with this book. It started out with a very interesting premise and the descriptions of the Amazon and England in 1904 were wonderful - but then the author had to incorporate terrible shock elements.

And once again I ask, "Why do books NOT have a rating system like movies?"

I was enjoying this book up until page 254. Then it took a nasty nasty turn. Usually, I can anticipate when a icky part is coming and I can strategically skip or...more
In Rachael King's The Sound of Butterflies, Thomas Edgar, an amateur naturalist; travels to the Amazon in search of a butterfly he isn't even sure exists. Things start out fine for Mr. Edgar and his three companions: George, Ernie, and John. Catching wonderful specimens, and ever on the look-out for what will be his prize catch - his Papilio Sophia. A yellow and black swallow-tailed butterfly.
In their travels of scientific exploration in the jungle's of Brazil, they meet Mr. Santos, a seemingly...more
This novel raced to the top of New Zealand's best seller charts- the author, Rachel King, is the daughter of one NZ most-celebrated historians and writers (Michael King, The Penguin History of New Zealand). King is also the step-sister of a member of my then-book group. I will hold confidential the discussion we held at PLONK, a frou frou wine bar in Christchurch (I recall having a pot of herbal tea...),

I tried hard to like this novel. The narrative- which moved between Victorian England and the...more

This sweet, deceptively simple novel touches on so many different themes and tropes, that reflecting on it, it is a marvel the author carried it all off, and did it so well.

The Sound of Butterfliesis about manners and conventions, love, trust, and social justice cradled in the familiar narrative of the white man entering the jungle and succumbing to his most basic instincts. (A lo-carb Heart of Darkness if you will.)

While the ending felt a little rushed and was wrapped up a little too nearly, t...more
Alastair Crawford
Great page turner - every wilder thing that happened next was unpredictable but seemed set in concrete and unavoidably necessary not to mention convincing once it had occurred. Wee exceptions like Santos would have known Thomas was doing what he was doing, as he had spies and control... but character is fate, and oh Thomas we've all been young. Clever too with the readability - easy to follow despite the flowering plot lines and flashbacks and flash-forwards that kept the suspense. Liked the cha...more
Turn of the century English butterfly seeker in the Amazon. Books set in the Amazon are always so exotic and this one right up there. Salvation at the end but a lot of strange goings-on in the middle.
Angela (:
Dec 26, 2012 Angela (: marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Because Nenia loved it. :3
Jennifer Defoy
Overall I thought this was a good book. Rachael King has a way with words that paint the most exquisite landscapes. While there were many great aspects of this book, the best of them all has to be her command of language.

The begining of the book seemed to take off slowly, more effort seemed to be placed on painting the landscapes as opposed to character development. However, as the book goes on the characters begin to take shape and the lack of explanation in the begining is seen as appropriate...more
Sophie's husband Thomas left in search of the holy grail of butterflies, but he has returned a changed and altogether incomplete man. From his mysterious wounds to his inability or unwillingness to speak, it is clear that his travels were wrought with trauma and brutality. [return]It started out as a slow read, and I found it difficult initially to immerse myself in the identities of Sophie & Thomas. But before long, I was eagerly following the dual points of view, slowly discovering with So...more
I'm a sucker for Brazilian jungle novels (LOVED Patchett's "State of Wonder"), and when you add in the 1904 rubber baron and corrupt Manaus angle, I'm totally hooked.
The parallel story structure of Thomas in the jungle and Sophie back in Richmond is great, and as the former story unfolds, an element of mystery develops. Sophie's struggles to understand what has so severely traumatized her mute husband is full of pathos. Thomas is revealed as a failed human being who keeps as silent as the butter...more
Mirren Jones
This is Rachael King’s debut novel, set around the turn of the century. It has an interesting construction, using narrative, diary pages and letters to tell the story. These work well and bring an immediacy to the writing, conveying a powerful sense of place and time.

There’s a whole array of themes in this novel: a love story which includes betrayal and devotion, travel to colonial settings and the Amazonian rainforest, sex of various kinds, snobbery and shocking brutality. The main characters...more
It's intriguing to begin reading a novel whose title seems so paradoxical: The Sound of Butterflies. In all my young days chasing butterflies among the wildflowers, the butterflies never once made a sound. They weren't like moths at the window or the buzzy bees, nor chirping birds or the wind through the trees. Not even close. In fact, their silence added to their mystique and beauty.

"Dear Sophie, We have finally reached Manaus and are now being accommodated at the home of Mr. Santos --- a man w...more
I was extremely disappointed with this book. I really thought I was going to like it. I mean what's not to like about a scientific expedition into the Amazon? And the story was set up nicely. It starts off with the main character Thomas coming home to his wife from the Amazon very badly shocked. He is shocked in to silence. He won't talk. So I'm thinking maybe he got into some trouble with the locals. Maybe his life was in danger and he saw some and did some unspeakable things. But no! I was mor...more
Leanne Rogerson
Loved it! Normally only get books from the library since they cost so much but was heading away for a few days and this one was one of the least expensive in the it seemed a fascinating story going by the back blurb. Set in 1904 Edwardian England, it's largely about a young man who leaves his young wife behind and goes off in search for a very special butterfly deep in the Amazon rainforest and experiences things that eventually leave him speechless on his return. I love the way Rach...more
Francesca Lorenzini
Agli inizi del ‘900, Thomas si reca in Brasile per cercare e raccogliere farfalle e al suo ritorno un anno dopo non parla più. La ricostruzione dei fatti avviene alternando la vita insieme di Sophie e Thomas, scritta al presente, al racconto dell’esperienza dell’uomo nella giungla, al passato remoto. A completare il quadro si aggiungono la sua corrispondenza con la moglie e con un amico e pagine del suo diario. Questo stile vario rende la lettura molto godibile e mantiene viva la suspance.
I due...more
I will give this book 2 stars. I read it for my bookclub and really did not enjoy it. The first 125 pages or so are very long drawn out descriptions. The author does paint a relatively good picture in your mind but lets get on with the story. Then there is finally something happening, and it gets a little better, and then all of a sudden it is over. I did not like the end, the author dragged the story out and then just wrapped in up in a couple pages at the end. My favorite supporting character,...more
Thomas Edgar as a child developed a love for butterfly collecting. As a young man at the turn of the 20th century he is given the chance to travel to Brazil and participate in a natural history collection expedition in the Amazon River region. However, he returns a very changed and disturbed man. The book alternates between his experiences in Brazil with the environment, the natives and his host Santos. Senor Santos, a wealthy rubber plantation baron, is not as hospitable as he seems. His wife S...more
Darryl Mexic
The Sound of Butterflies by Rachael King **** Novel Beautifully written story of Adventure in South America during Victorian times. Edwards leaves his beautiful and new wife in England to engage in his passion of butterfly collecting, with three scientists, along the Amazon river in South America. He returns after several years, a shell of his former self and does not speak at all, though no illness is discovered. His devoted wife slowly unravels his story. His group is hosted in a city in the i...more
On the outset, I was SO impressed with this book. I thought: this is real historical fiction. For the first time ever I felt the author really painted that full picture of the past and enabled me to experience it: from clothing and hair styles to modes of transport, attitudes, passtimes and the use of language. However, all this beauty was ruined for me when the author decided to bestow one of the main characters with a very strange and disturbing tendancy that truly turned my stomach. What a bl...more
Emma Jansson
Mysterious nail-biter, with parallels to the Great Gatsby (or so I think). King keeps you in the dark until the very last page, with the journey into the jungles of South America returning a once explorative man...mute. We follow the journey of his concerned wife, in resolving the mystery of his silence.
Sandra Irwin
Enjoyed this book very much. The knowledge that there is a murder does not stop your enjoyment of the book. It is one of the best if not the best book I've read that tell the story at different times in parallel; Thomas in Brazil and later in London. It was not confusing.
The characters were interesting and were developed fully by the writer.
She gave you two bad guys who were believable and each thread of the story was told in a balanced way so at the end you find out what happens to all characte...more
Oct 09, 2008 Tara rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Tara by: No one; I saw it on the New Books Shelf at my library.
This debut novel starts out with young Sophie Edgar awaiting the return of her husband Thomas from Brazil. Thomas has been on the adventure of a lifetime collecting his beloved butterflies and searching for an elusive lengendary butterfly whose existance is known of only in stories. When he arrives home however, he is a changed man and no longer speaks. What could have caused such damage to the man she loves is the question Sophie seeks to answer. As she searches his journals and letters for ans...more
Set mostly in Brazil was an added bonus! It's a kind of historical fiction, I suppose - set in the early 1900s - and showcasing the excesses of the rubber-making bosses in Brazil. Set up as a mystery - Thomas returns to England from his expedition to Brazil a mute shell of a man with no apparent reason. He had gone to Brazil as part of an expedition looking for new species in the Brazilian jungle - he especially wanted to find a rumored butterfly so that he could name it for his beautiful wife,...more
More like a 2.6
In the early 1900s, Thomas, an amateur naturalist is included in a trip to the Amazon sponsored by a rubber baron. Thomas is seeking a mythical butterfly that he hopes will seal his reputation as a collector. Instead, when he returns to England a mute and broken man, his wife tries to determine what happened to him and discovers that her husband may not be the man she thought he was.
Includes some very interesting (and horrifying) period information about rubber plantations and sci...more
An absorbing book in which the characters and plot are slowly revealed. Rachael King evokes the hot and humid Amazon forest so atmospherically that it becomes almost claustrophobic. This is echoed by Sophie's sense of being trapped by Thomas's silence.
Valerie K
As you can see by my single star, I really did not like this book. An interesting attempt but I don't think it worked very well. By the end I didn't like any of the characters anymore, and the double solution to the big mystery that was carrying the story along was such a let-down. The violences were so entirely human and while horrific and disturbing, it just was not satisfying as a conclusion in comparison with the magical butterfly build-up and questions posed about reality vs imagination. If...more
Judy Bujold
Murder , Mystery and very intriguing- a man's journey to find the 1 butterfly in the dangerous jungles of Brazil. Leaving his wife to discover what really happened during his exploration.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 39 40 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • As the Earth Turns Silver
  • The Winds of Heaven
  • A Proper Education for Girls
  • The Denniston Rose
  • The Silence of the Rain
  • The Foreigner: A Novel
  • The Boy Next Door
  • Dark Places
  • Sea Change: A Novel
  • The First Wife
  • The Convent
  • Consequences of Sin
  • Almost True (When I Was Joe, #2)
  • Lima Nights
  • The Glory Cloak: A Novel of Louisa May Alcott and Clara Barton
  • When We Were Bad
  • Artichoke Hearts
  • Poet's Cottage
Rachael King lives in a cold rambling villa in Christchurch, New Zealand. Her first novel, The Sound of Butterflies, won the New Zealand Society of Authors Hubert Church award for Best First Book of Fiction at New Zealand Book Awards. It was published in eight languages other than English, and was released in the US in September 2007 through William Morrow and Picadir in the UK. Her second novel,...more
More about Rachael King...
Magpie Hall Red Rocks Der Ruf des Schmetterlings Think Like a Learner

Share This Book