Joe's Reviews > Papillon

Papillon by Henri Charrière
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's review
Nov 19, 2010

really liked it
Read in July, 2010

This book is an absolute page turner. I read it many years ago and then again recently. The synopsis is slightly misleading in that Henri aka Papillion was sentenced to life in prison for a murder he did commit. He killed a pimp who was after his sister never believing any judge would find him guilty enough for such a horrific sentence. The French penal colonies make a stay in Sağmalcılar seem like a vacation. The film adaptation while a terrific movie only scratches the surface of Henri's tribulations. For instance, while waiting to be shipped back to the colony after escaping and being caught by Venezuelan police he is kept in a prison that fills with water on the rising tide, and he must cling to the cell bars until the tide flows out. And if that weren't bad enough he must keep at bay water rats that are larger than cats and centipedes longer than a boys' arm. He is kept in solitary confinement multiple times ranging from 2 to 5 years. The French idea of solitary is exactly what the definition of the word describes; alone day and night in the same small cell with 2 meager meals a day. When I say meager I am talking about a bowl of cabbage water with no protein other than what he is able to find in his cell, such as insects and the occasional rat. This is a long book but never a dull moment it has everything, honor, betrayal, bravery, horror, and suspense. This is a must read if you like true stories
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