William Herschel's Reviews > An Obsession With Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair With A Singular Insect

An Obsession With Butterflies by Sharman Apt Russell
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's review
Jan 12, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: nonfiction, nature, science, kobo, 2012, entomology
Read from January 08 to 11, 2012

Butterflies. I can't say butterflies captivate me anymore, and the book didn't produce many sparks. As often is the case, I find scientist's enthusiasm and passion more lovely to read about than the actual thing.

But the author isn't an entomologist and her writing style is bizarre and unscientific. I wasn't really expecting something too scientific here, but the constant human personification of butterflies really grated on me. And it wasn't as all for being poetic, either, because it was diced up between tidbits of butterfly facts, the author visiting a museum, and random collector or entomologist history. The timeline of the history was odd in focus.

I think this is the first book I've encountered that liberally used the 2nd person since I read choose-your-adventure Goosebumps in elementary. Yes, you guessed it, we get to live life through butterflies quite a bit. At one time the book dissolves into poetic one-liners about what a butterfly is and means... but, where is the context? What do different cultures think of butterflies, what is universal?

Unfortunately, I think this foray into butterflies just soldered a distaste for them rather than indifference. As caterpillars, they're eating machines as the book puts it. They do very little for the pollination of flowers compared to other insects. Reading about their metamorphosis could have been interesting, but I didn't feel the process was really explained to me.

It's kind of like silly daydreams: little focus or coherence and the feeling of frivolousness. Kind of like butterflies. It's too bad this wasn't a pure poetic foray but instead this attempt at memoir, facts, history...

But hey, props for the Nabokov references!
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