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The Butterfly Cabinet

3.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,383 Ratings  ·  270 Reviews
An unforgettable story of two women linked by their roles in a tragedy at the end of the Victorian era, THE BUTTERFLY CABINET by Bernie McGill will appeal to fans of THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX or THE SUSPICIONS OF MR WHICHER, and was singled out by Julian Fellowes as his Book of the Year in the Guardian.

When Anna, the young woman she cared for as a child, announces h
Mass Market Paperback, 375 pages
Published 2011 by Headline Review (first published August 1st 2010)
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Bernie Mcgill
May 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
I thought it was great. But then, I did write it.
Aug 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a haunting tale. This sad story is told in two voices; that of a nanny who used to work in the household and through the diaries of the mother of a child who died at the hands of her punishment. Harriet, the mother, is a woman who really never should have never had children and is married to man who is half a child himself. A product of their times, their status and their religion Harriet has a baby just about every year. She is shocked both that she enjoys what goes into creating the child ...more
Oct 06, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Bleh! I picked up in anticipation of a Gothic read. I loved the cover, turns out it was the best part of the book. The story is told in alternating chapters by Harriet, the lady of the house and Maddie the maid. By the time we meet Harriet, she is in prison for the murder of her daughter Charlotte. Harriet is real piece of work. She is kind of an Andrea Yates type character, too many kids, too soon, and she loses her mind. She was abused as a child, as told in a very nasty flashback with a corse ...more
Brenda Youngerman
I try SO hard not to write a book review from a personal point of view and be objective when posting. But I am making an exception in this case. We are taught at a very young age not to judge a book by its' cover, but the cover of this book is hauntingly beautiful and after reading the book it only becomes more so. It is so appropriate for the book. As an author I appreciate that!

I opened the book and had not read anything about it - not the press release Free Press had sent me, not the back, no
Stephanie Miss
This book was a fluke. I didn't plan on reading it but i was in desperate need of reading material after the genius "Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett. Let me tell you, ONE HELL OF A DIFFERENCE in literature .
The book it self was well written...sometimes. When the writing was good, it was good. But when it was bad, it was seriously bad. Several times, not even proper sentience structure was used, leaving me to frustratingly contemplate what either narrators were trying to say in an already un
Aug 09, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book starts with Anna writing to Maddie McGlade telling her that she is ready to hear Maddie’s story. Maddie was a former nanny to Anna. Before Anna, Maddie was a nanny to another little girl. Her name was Charlotte Ormond. Charlotte was just four years old when she died. Her mother, Harriet sits in prison for the murder of Charlotte. Both Maddie and Harriet share their sides of the story of the events leading up to Charlotte’s death.

I must admit that this is one of those books that sound b
Sarah Rodgers
Jul 17, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-2011
The blurb on the back was good but the book just did not deliver. I considered not finishing it half way through but decided to perservere - I wish I hadn't, I could have read something much better.

The book was printed in fairly large print and double spaced lines, I guess then that I should have seen it coming that it was a padded out debut novel. The author could have done so much more with the story without all the unrelated, uninteresting drivel that took place between the pages. I did not c
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story of a tragedy is told in two voices, a mother in prison and an elderly servant in a nursing home. It is not a fast moving book, but it has a fascinating look into life in the late 19th, early 20th centuries in northern Ireland.
The mother reflects on her life as it was before prison and while there through writing in a notebook. The butterflies she collected were, it seems, the most important things in her life, though she had nine children, a good husband, and wealth.
The servant, on
Diane S ☔
Aug 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very intersting book. Told in alternate chapters from the mother in prison and one of the servants who was working in the house the day the child dies.Doesn't specifically answer how the child ended up dead byt gives one a pretty good idea of how is happened. Slow paced though but again it is an atmospheric Irish novel.
Mar 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a well written book, it moves seamlessly between the two characters telling the story. The only thing I can say about this story, without giving anything away is it is a very sad tale.
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘It’s hard to do, to tell one story when there are so many stories to tell.’

Ms McGill’s novel is based on a sad event. In 1892, an aristocratic woman punished her four year old daughter. The child strangled to death.

In this fictional version of the tragedy, the story moves between the prison diary of Lady Harriet Ormond as she serves time for her daughter Charlotte’s accidental death, and the memories of Maddie McGlade over seventy years later. The backdrop to each woman’s narrative is provided
Sep 20, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011, first-reads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 10, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: inghilterra

Harriet, rigida nell’educare i figli fino al maltrattamento. Anche sua madre è stata rigida con lei, tanto da farla sentire rifiutata. Di lei ricorda “Mia madre insisteva per spazzolarmi i capelli, cento colpi ogni sera, il suo unico gesto materno”. Harriet è in carcere, accusata di aver ucciso la sua bambina, Charlotte, di soli quattro anni. L’ha rinchiusa nella stanza del guardaroba, le mani legate con una calza fissata a un anello fissato al muro. Harriet, in carcere, ha tempo per pensare, ri
May 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Meglio il titolo originale "The butterfly cabinet"
Mi sono lasciata fuorviare dalla trama nell'aletta e ho cercato per un terzo del libro il dipanarsi del mistero relativo alla morte di una bimba di quattro anni durante un terribile castigo impostole dalla madre.
Letto così, questo libro è un mistery piuttosto deludente.
Poi, finalmente, ho capito che il mistero non riguarda la tragedia della piccola Charlotte, dominata dalla banalità di una sfortunata concatenazione di fatti accidentali, ma rigu
Jun 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Based on a true crime The Butterfly Cabinet is a haunting tale told through the mother's prison journal and the house maid's recollections. How sad that Harriet was not the mother she should've been, she didn't really know how to love (or care) for a child yet she had nine. Her parents never showed affection and that was all she knew.

Harriet's daughter is locked in a closet as punishment and dies. She is sentenced to prison for murder. McGill writes in a way that makes you feel compassion for th
Donna Radcliff
Jul 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When the line between discipline and abuse becomes blurried....In 1892 Ireland a small child dies, alone and bound in a wardrobe. Her mother is convicted in her death and is sentanced to a year in prison. This eerie, haunting story (based on true events)is told in two voices: the prison diary of Harriet written in 1892, and the 1967 nursing home monologue by Maddie, who worked as young maid in the family home at the time of the death. Together these voices reveal what happened that awful day and ...more
Aug 06, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: no-longer-own
I found the story, the back and forth with Harriet and Maddie’s letters, a bit tedious and a bit uninteresting. I wondered where this story was heading and was disappointed. The ‘truth’ could have been so much bigger and better. I felt let down by it. Maddie, who was fifteen at the time, wasn’t responsible for anything. I wonder why the author put that in toward the end of the story. I think she wanted us to come up with our own opinion about that. I’m not sure I’d ever read this author again.

Aug 14, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't usually skim through a book but this book was dry and boring. I enjoy books that I can't wait to pick up in the morning. I like to think of the characters at times during the day. I didn't like the characters in this story and I didn't care what happened to them or why it happened It is sad that a four year old child dies and the tradgedy is mixed up with butterflys. There is a lot of going back into the past of these characters and I had no interest in Harriet's love of the hunt and how ...more
Sep 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: traveling-book
I had never read this author before but once I picked up this book I was hooked! It is a tragic tale about a mother who accidently kills one of her children trying to teach her a lesson. The story is told by two people. The mother and the nanny. I hated the mother but at times caught myself feeling sorry for her. I was so sure I knew the ending of this story until boom.....I was soooo wrong! Great job Bernie! I loved this book and can't wait to read more by you!
Sep 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall, I enjoyed it. The writing was really good, although it got a little boring in some parts. It wasn't really what I was expecting, but it was a good story.
Morganna The Hungry Wolf
arlo in senso unico e con presunzione, quando dico che ci siamo piaciuti. Perché io posso dire con slancio amoroso che il libro mi è piaciuto in maniera decisa e chiara, ma non so cosa il libro pensi di me.
E’ un libro fatto di voci, più che di eventi, di piccoli frammenti che si uniscono piano piano e ci portano verso la conoscenza di due donne diverse, più che verso la soluzione di un evento. Non c’è una trama strutturata, la narrazione procede tramite i ricordi i pensieri e le sensazioni di du
This story sounded good, the promotional material hinted at secrets finally revealed and the book itself is based on actual events. It's set in Ireland in both the late 1800s and the mid-1900s and narrated by two different women: Harriet Ormond the mistress of Oranmore who is convicted of murdering her four year old daughter Charlotte and Maddie, now in her nineties recalls what it was like as a servant in the house at the time of Charlotte's death. Each chapter alternates between the two narrat ...more
Oct 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book because it shocked me more than once and always kept me guessing. There are two narrators: Maddie, who is 92 at the time of her narration, and was a maid for a landowner for most of her life. Maddie is talking to Anna, who is the granddaughter of Harriet Ormond. Anna's mother was Harriet's last child (2nd girl) and was born while Harriet was incarcerated. As elderly people are wont to do, Maddie kind of talks in circles and goes off on different tangents--different memor ...more
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Butterfly Cabinet tells the eerie tale of two different women and one horrible event that ties them together forever. Maddie McGlade is a former nanny that is just now sharing her secrets from the past and telling her story to an old family friend. Alongside Maddie's memories is the prison journal of her former employer Harriet, who was sent to prison for the murder of her four year old daughter. Both stories intertwine to create a mesmerizing tale that is both dark and haunting.

Wow! The aut
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an absolute jewel of a book, though the subject matter is difficult at times.
Two women, whose lives are intertwined for decades, reveal hidden things from
the past.
In the late 1800s, Harriet, the wife of an affluent man and the mistress of a large estate, writes from
her prison cell where she's serving a one-year sentence for the death of her four-year
old daughter.
Maddie, from a retirement home in the 1960s, is telling the story to a young woman whom has
known Maddie her entire life, and Ma
Jul 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the topic is unpleasant, and the content is disturbing, it is at the same time, hauntingly beautifully written. Set in Ireland and narrated by two very different women, the reader is on emotional journey throughout the entire book. Is the type of book that I have trouble saying that I enjoyed, but I am glad that I read it .
Jun 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful, haunting story, reminiscent of Kate Morton - Bernie Mcgill is an author to watch!
My complete review can be found on my blog.

I give The Butterfly Cabinet 4.5 out of 5 stars
Michele Weiner
I normally give any book I finish at least three stars. This one, I would give 2.5. It's based on the true story of a woman who was sentenced to a year in prison following the death of her four-year-old daughter in 1892. In the imagination of Bernie Mcgill, the woman, named Harriet Ormond in the book, is unusually terse and tactless, fearless, wanting nothing more than freedom from expectations and relationships. She is unable to display emotion or to show love, though she enjoys sex with her hu ...more
Aug 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Butterfly Cabinet by Bernie McGill is a haunting and atmospheric novel set in 19th Century Ireland and inspired by true events.

Going into the The Butterfly Cabinet, you know that four-year-old Charlotte died and her mother, Harriet, was sent to prison for it. One would think that Harriet would be easy to condemn, her guilt assured. We see Harriet as Maddie sees her - cold and exacting of everyone around her, including her own children. Her methods of discipline horrified me, as it horrified
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Goodreads Ireland: Spoiler Thread: The Butterfly Cabinet 12 25 Feb 18, 2012 11:55AM  
Goodreads Ireland: February Monthly Read: The Butterly Cabinet 18 18 Feb 17, 2012 11:19AM  
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Bernie McGill lives in Portstewart in Northern Ireland. Her first novel The Butterfly Cabinet was published in the UK and Ireland in August 2010 by Headline Review and in the US by Free Press in July 2011. It is available in an Italian translation - La donna che collezionava farfalle - published by Bollati Boringhieri and in Dutch - Charlotte's vleugels - published by De Fontein. A new edition i ...more
More about Bernie Mcgill...
“Some ghosts are so quiet you would hardly know they were there.” 109 likes
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