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Butterfly Burning

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  268 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
Butterfly Burning brings the brilliantly poetic voice of Zimbabwean writer Yvonne Vera to American readers for the first time. Set in Makokoba, a black township, in the late 1940s, the novel is an intensely bittersweet love story. When Fumbatha, a construction worker, meets the much younger Phephelaphi, he"wants her like the land beneath his feet from which birth had sever ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published September 12th 2000 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1998)
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Community Reviews

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Noon is too much like the middle of things, not a useful time for proposals, conclusions and disasters. Noon is just that, sunlight pouring down to melt shadows, and therefore, too many witnesses to every fall.
The hope for writing lies in the writers who treat with it as a limb and not with themselves as a god. To flex composition as musculature entails the burn of acid when oxygen is rendered insufficient, the pain of tearing in the aim of new growth, the itch of healing bone and the chance o
Feb 14, 2016 Bjorn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: zimbabwe, woc2016
When I read Under the Tongue a bunch of years ago I couldn't quite get into it. Whether it was the book or me, or both, I don't know; but Vera's writing is very busy, the kind that in a lesser writer would reek of thesaurus overuse. and at that moment I didn't quite think the payoff was worth the effort I had to make to piece it together. This time, something clicked. Which isn't to say that Butterfly Burning is straight-forward. Here's some builders at work:

We are here. This is said urgently
Butterfly Burning is less a novel than it is a song. Set in the small Zimbabwean township of Makokabo during the 1940’s, it tells the story of Phephelaphi, a young woman searching for self-identification in a world that promises more than it gives. It is a book of landscapes; of people; of the collective and the individual; of needs, loves, and losses.
‘Sidojewi E2, the longest street in Makokoba, is fresh with all kinds of desperate wounds. Bulawayo, only fifty years old, has nothing to offer b
Apr 05, 2014 Charly rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: People with short to read lists.
This is the story of a woman who doesn't exactly fall in love with an older man, but does live with him. It is about her dreams held and unfulfilled, a past kept from her, and her choices to deal with what is dealt. There is very much a stream of consciousness approach here which does very little for the work. Perhaps a decent snapshot of awakening Africa in the 1940s.

This is for people with short to read lists.
Mar 25, 2014 Viva rated it it was amazing
The writing style of Butterfly Burning is beautiful. This novel will be part of my favourites to read. There are a few chapters where its difficult to read, but you have to keep on pushing. The novel can ignite many feelings and thoughts around the subjects of ownership, trust, protection, etc. After reading, I was left with wondering after your body/spirit has been violated (sexual assault, rape) is it possible ever feel that your body is yours. For women who have given birth, had miscarriages ...more
Mar 07, 2012 Jackieleigh123 rated it did not like it
Had to read this for an English class. Very tough to get through. My entire class had trouble understanding.It was like everything(literally every single thing) had a hidden meaning. To some this may be nice. I may have enjoyed it more if I had read it on my own instead of in the classroom.
T.K Trian
Mar 27, 2013 T.K Trian rated it it was amazing
Vera was a master of the language, and the prose is absolutely amazing. The story and characters are compelling too. A window to a different world.
Carmen like the opera
Nov 12, 2007 Carmen like the opera rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written. Lyrical. Spare and efficient writing as a poem. I loved reading this book and "listening" to the words in my head.
MaryKai Boulton
Mixed emotions on this. Because of the poetic type nature of the writing style, it took reading half way through it before connecting. I usually read at night, when I'm tired, and poetic stances are lost on me. Once I connected, I really enjoyed the characters.

Spoiler: It was hard to read because it talks about the hard decisions made by a woman in a difficult time. You are able to see why she made the choice, but then see the negative consequence from those choices. Those include abortion, adul
Sandra Chavez
Mar 26, 2010 Sandra Chavez rated it it was amazing
The novel, Butterfly Burning by Yvonne Vera, is about a young woman living in Sidojiwe E2, Makokoba, Bulawoyo. It starts off with describing how the plot is. It talks about how they live in that little section of the small town. It is an underdeveloped place where everyone knows each other. The story is about a young woman named Phephelaphi. About her struggles as they come. It is talking about the situations and how she handles them.
She lives in a room with her boyfriend, Fumbatha. The room is
Claudia-Il giro del mondo attraverso i libri

Mi sono resa conto di aver poco e niente sull'Africa per cui sono andata in biblioteca per rimediare. Ho chiesto al bibliotecario dei romanzi ambientati in Africa scritti da autori africani e il poveretto è andato un po' nel pallone; mi ha spiegato infatti che non esiste una sezione "narrativa africana" come potrebbe esistere "narrativa inglese" perché in Africa le lingue ufficiali possono essere inglese, francese e portoghese in base a quale nazione li aveva colonizzati, per cui gli autori afri
May 13, 2015 Sincerae rated it liked it
Butterfly Burning is by Yvonne Vera, a Zimbabwean novelist. I gave this novel four stars at first but then reduced it to three because I like the novel's use of poetic language and love story, but I was not enthusiastic overall about the characters. The setting of the story is the black township of Makokoba during the 1940s. The two main characters are Fumbatha, a middle aged man who lost his father at an early age. He seems to view life and all the oppression in it disinterestedly, just going t ...more
May 31, 2008 kyle added it
Good, though slightly disappointing. I've never read a book that combines such poetic eloquence with sentences that I find so irritating or metaphors that I think fall flat. At times it reads to me that she is just trying too damn hard. In some ways it is the opposite of Gilead in that I'm constantly aware of Yvonne Vera crafting each sentence as I read them.
Take the following passage, from early on (page 35) when Vera first describes the death of Phephelaphi's mother.
"Still, she thought someone
Nov 09, 2009 Lindsey rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 29, 2015 Mona rated it it was ok
I really don't know how to rate this book.

I had heard great things about Yvonne Vera but for some reason, I couldn't connect to this book at all. For me, her writing style hindered the novel significantly. I do feel that this story holds great potential and there were some important issues that were touched upon but unfortunately, Vera's writing let me down.
Jul 17, 2012 Han rated it liked it
This novel is like one long poem, complete with lyricism, metaphors, and all those other lovely components of poetry. At times, the resulting effect was brilliant and powerful. But at other times, the intricate language felt too complicated and unnecessary, causing me to lose any connection with the characters. Also, the first half of the book was almost unbearably slow, compared to the second half, during which all of the major action seemed to happen all at once. Yvonne Vera's style wasn't my ...more
Rhonda Zimlich
Apr 15, 2014 Rhonda Zimlich rated it it was amazing
Achingly beautiful and abjectly perfect.
Apr 07, 2013 Suketus rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa
Tarina kertoo nuoresta zimbabwelaisesta Phephelaphista Bulawayon slummissa 1940-luvulla. Elämä ei kohtele hyvin, mutta nuorella naisella on toivon kipinä, josta hän pitää kiinni: hän haluaa sairaanhoitajaksi. Kohtalon käänteet eivät kuitenkaan ole unelmille aina niin suotuisat, vaikka kuinka suuresti toivoo.

Vaikea kirja. Runollinen kieli samaan aikaan hurmaa ja ärsyttää. Paljon on merkityksiä tiiviissä tilassa. Ei tosiaan mikään välipala! Ihmettelen, miten tämä on nuorten kirjaksi luokiteltu, to
Jul 02, 2008 Emilie rated it liked it
Under tiden som jag har läst den här boken har jag funderat på den tradiga, hyperintellektuella, alltid out-of-date-frågan: Kan det bli för poetiskt?

Det här är en bok som inte innehåller en enda dålig mening. Räcker det för att boken ska vara bra?

I ett försök att simma längs med karaktärerna, drunknar jag i språket. I ett försök att ta till mig poesin, glömmer jag bort historien.

Och ändå: Jag tror på det hon säger.
Jul 05, 2015 Bonnie rated it liked it
This book is heavy on images and memories, light on plot and character. I feel like Yvonne Vera is a gorgeous writer and could transfer her skills to poetry.
Feb 02, 2014 Nina rated it it was amazing
"Trust lovers to nurture hope till it festers." Excellent!
Aimee Webb
Feb 12, 2013 Aimee Webb rated it it was amazing
I love this book. It's about an African woman who struggles to gain autonomy and self worth in a man's world. She does it, and although her choice is drastically destructive, I'm elated at her strength and success.
Chantal Melser
Te poëtisch om het een heel boek zo vol te houden. Ik mis het kader van de gebeurtenissen. Wel sfeer van het leven langs de weg, minimaal huis, weinig structuur. Ik raad het niet snel een ander aan.
Nov 03, 2008 Abby rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I had been meaning to read one of Yvonne Vera's books for quite some time. She has a beautiful style, very lyrical, smooth and descriptive.
Sep 10, 2009 Janelle rated it it was ok
This is a beautiful collection of words, and the story at the heart of it is devastating. Yet the poetic style obscures the narrative.
Jake Whetstone
Feb 01, 2010 Jake Whetstone rated it did not like it
Nothing against Yvonne Vera, i think it is a good book and it is beautifully written, i just couldn't get into it for some reason
Not as good as Without a Name. If you haven't read her books before, I suggest starting with Without a Name or Under the Tongue.
Jul 07, 2009 Melissa rated it really liked it
Probably the most accessible of her books, but it's still a difficult read (because of the subject matter)
Okezie Nwoka
Aug 24, 2012 Okezie Nwoka rated it it was amazing
Amazing book! So lyrical and the imagery is stunning.
Rebecca Grubb
Nov 10, 2010 Rebecca Grubb rated it it was amazing

Beautiful. It will destroy and rebuild you.
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Yvonne Vera (September 19, 1964 – April 7, 2005) was an award-winning author from Zimbabwe. Her novels are known for their poetic prose, difficult subject-matter, and their strong women characters, and are firmly rooted in Zimbabwe's difficult past. For these reasons, she has been widely studied and appreciated by those studying postcolonial African literature.

Vera was born in Bulawayo, in what wa
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