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The Night Butterflies

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It is always dark. Warmer than it should be. The sun is a dull glower of reproach, only sometimes visible through the fallout. A once-majestic university town is crumbled, ashen and divided. The Men have made their home the Facility, where they develop the medication to combat the radiation that would otherwise kill those left alive.

Another day at school for Teacher. Another morning of bullying and torment from a batch of doll-like triplets more violent and unbalanced by the day. They are the nightmare product of Project Eden, the operation devised by Leader for the survival of the community, seeded in the Mothers without their consent.

Teacher has hope. She has a secret. When it is uncovered by Jimmy-1, a triplet who might be different, what will it mean for his future and hers?

Not just another dystopian novel. New author Sara Litchfield explores what it means to be a child, a mother and a monster in a chilling world devoid of comfort

Kindle Edition

First published October 2, 2014

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About the author

Sara Litchfield

5 books20 followers
Sara Litchfield is an author and explorer who believes in making a mark on the wall of the world. After savouring life as a theologian at Cambridge and an accountant in London, she emigrated to Middle Earth (sometimes known as New Zealand), where she now devotes herself to all things words and wonderful.

Her debut novel, dystopian thriller The Night Butterflies, was released in 2014.

Visit her digital hobbit hole at www.saralitchfield.com

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Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 4 books52 followers
February 16, 2015
Real Rating: 3.5 / 5

Genetically engineered babies, mind-numbing medications, and an incinerator where rebels and children are burned alive - that's the post-apocalyptic Britain that readers will visit in Sara Litchfield's debut novel, The Night Butterflies. I already knew Sara from being one of the beta-readers for The Night Butterflies last year. So I was thrilled when the final printed version arrived in the mail so I could read it again.

One thing that the above synopsis doesn't reveal about The Night Butterflies is that it's told from five POVs: three adults (Teacher, and Jimmy-1's parents Karen and Nick), and two children (Jimmy-1, and Teacher's daughter Ellie). It's impossible to be more specific about each character without diving into too much backstory. What I can say, though, is that each character has a unique perspective on the story's events. Readers will see the entire scope play out and gain a chilling understanding of how everyone in this small, isolated community will be impacted. Also, under Litchfield's elegant yet visceral prose, the voices of each POV character are unique from one another. Jimmy-1's in particular is choppy and direct, reflecting his learning disability as well as glimmers of intelligence and empathy. Creating a quintet of distinct characters is an ambitious feat for a debut novel, yet Litchfield pulls it off beautifully.

Like any speculative fiction novel, dystopians need a solid world-building foundation so the story can hold up. Holy mama, does The Night Butterflies deliver on this. Take the totalitarian regime of The Hunger Games (minus the Games), plunk it in the post-nuclear landscape Cormac McCarthy's The Road (minus the cannibals), and add dashes of bio-engineering with twisted results. It's desolate, it's scary, and it's staggering. Fortunately, Litchfield doesn't overwhelm readers with her backstory. Instead, she drops hints of it throughout The Night Butterflies. Readers gradually learn about what happened in the past, how it led up to current times, and how the community functions (or rather, cowers) under a mad scientist's iron grip. So, everything makes sense despite the chilling nature of the "status quo," and you find yourself absorbed in its many layers.

Having read an early draft of The Night Butterflies, I can now compare what I remember from last year to the final version. It's amazing to see how much has changed, yet how much of it remained the same. For example, in the final copy, Litchfield allows certain POV characters who were originally mere observers to jump deeper into the conflict, and brings in new scenes that filled in previously gaps in the story. The world is better explained and more deeply fleshed out as a result. At the same time, much of what I loved about the original version - especially Jimmy-1's character arc - is still there.

Despite enjoying The Night Butterflies, I wasn't satisfied with its narrative style. It leans heavily on exposition; and as a reader who enjoys strong dialogue and character interactions, I often wished there was more of both elements and less thinking from each POV character. (Other reviewers didn't seem to mind this, so maybe it's just me.) I also thought that certain scenes and descriptions were rushed, which jarred the story's flow at times and made it difficult to picture what was happening. The epilogue in particular could have gone into more detail about how the town and the lives of the POV characters I'd grown to care about had changed since the climax.

Overall, though, The Night Butterflies is a plunge into the human soul that reader won't soon forget. It shows the risks that everyday people are willing to take to do what's right, and the questions they're willing to ask so they can understand the science and morals (or lack thereof) of their dilemma. And despite its bleak world and weighty subject matter, its message of hope and humanity will buoy your spirits like its namesake. I know not everyone is keen on reading self-published novel, but if you're willing to give one a chance, try this haunting tale by Sara Litchfield. The amount of depth it possesses and thought it provokes will challenge - and perhaps change - those perceptions.
Profile Image for Beth Teliho.
Author 3 books171 followers
May 24, 2015
Wow. This book's plot is refreshingly different! I'm still reeling a bit from the read. Complex, unique (< which is hugely important to me), SMART, well written novel. I can't shake the characters...and the circumstances in which they live....OMG...chilling yet fascinating. The characters are so well developed, I can literally hear them right now. I can *see* how they move and walk. This is an intelligent read - Litchfield is not going after readers who want a predictable love triangle or the cliche plot; she's going after a savvy, smart reader who thirsts to be whisked away on an intense journey.

I highly recommend this book be used in a school or college class. It would be amazing to study how societies behave after being stripped down to absolutely nothing; it would be a fascinating dialogue. For that very reason, I'll be recommending this book to my book club. I can't wait to sit down with my friends and discuss it.

Well done, Sarah Litchfield. Beautiful cover, too!
Profile Image for Jenny Knipfer.
Author 14 books415 followers
January 22, 2020
Although outside of my usual genre of historical fiction, I enjoyed this engaging story. Litchfield paints a rich drama of moral dilemma in this expertly crafted dystopian tale. Told in several view points, the readers grasps the feel of those humans striving to evade extinction and their genetically engineered, flawed offspring.
Profile Image for Libby.
20 reviews1 follower
January 12, 2015
Review originally published on Through the Wardrobe.

Imagine a stark world where medication is your only sustenance, manufactured offspring your only company and a dark secret your only hope. Where the very air is poison and the concept of humanity has been lost. This is the world of The Night Butterflies.

Litchfield centres her debut novel within a dark dystopian future, a place where learning to survive is key in the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse but it comes at a price. Exploring the devolution of humanity in a world of uncertainty, this accomplished YA novel is told through the eyes of five different characters whose lives intertwine and influence each other’s as they search for a reason to live.

The beautifully poetic title juxtaposes the world it introduces and Litchfield consistently uses wonderfully lyrical turns of phrase to describe the harshness of her characters environment. The five very distinct narrative voices that she chooses to tell her story with are expertly woven together to keep the pace and plotline moving whilst adding depth to each individual. The Teacher, a quietly optimistic, strong and maternal character, is my favourite of the five but even the raw and staccato voice of synthetic-child Jimmy-1 is developed into something more meaningful throughout the course of the novel. Litchfield expertly plays with language and viewpoints to ensure the fluidity of the story and, as such, the reader can never second guess where the author will take them next.

Unlike most recently released dystopian YA novels, The Night Butterflies doesn’t centre on a prescriptive or linear teen romance but instead the story is opened up into a more philosophical sphere by coupling teen voices with adult ones. This increased access to different perspectives allows for a more rounded and deeper reader experience and I loved the contrast between the wistful reminiscences of pre-apocalypse life with the youthful confusion that comes from questioning and challenging the existing order.

Change is always unsettling and within the confines of an uncertain world it has the power to rewrite order, society and perspective. The Night Butterflies continuously debates the concept of the monster and the monstrous and blurs the boundaries between the synthetic and the natural. These adapting absolutes create a tense, claustrophobic yet electric atmosphere throughout the novel and builds suspense right up to a pitch!

Litchfield has delivered a refined and uniquely written dystopian debut that twists, turns and truly delights. The Night Butterflies is definitely a book to read with an upcoming author to watch!
Profile Image for Helena Hann-Basquiat.
Author 13 books20 followers
December 12, 2014
In a world saturated by Hunger Games clones, The Night Butterflies is a refreshing, intelligent, well written alternative to the pseudo-dystopian novels that currently fill the shelves. This is no teenage angsty love triangle story. The characters in this novel aren't complaining that their freedom or rights have been taken from them -- they are, instead, stripped of their very humanity. In a post-war world where the very air is poison, Men and Women are separated, as a mysterious Leader and his circle of Men seek to develop medicine to keep everyone alive, but also, that thing that is crucial for a species to continue -- healthy procreation.
This is where they have gone wrong -- as wrong as possible -- and the Mothers live in fear of their cruel, compassionless, inhumane children.
But suddenly, something begins to change for a couple of the characters, and a ray of hope begins to shine. Some of the children appear to be different, and some of the Mothers appear to be waking up from the drug induced stupors they usually stay in.

Lichfield uses multiple narrators, each with unique voices, even incorporating a sort of raw patois for one of the narrators, a young man who has not learned how to speak correctly. This was an inspired choice of storytelling method, giving the reader multiple points of view, and glimpses into the thoughts, fears, and motivations of each character.

One of my favourite novels of all time is Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, along with Wyndham's Midwich Cuckoos, Moore's V for Vendetta and Atwood's Handmaid's Tale. Sara Lichfield's The Night Butterflies handles the topic of degradation and fear, and a society that has forgotten how to be human with equal skill and maturity. The rediscovery of the joys of connection with other human beings that happens with her characters is just as powerful as, for instance, Guy Montag's awakening in Fahrenheit 451.

She is a truly gifted writer, and I will be adding this book to my list of books I read every year or so just to remind me why I read and why I write. To try -- to keep trying -- to create something as beautiful and inspiring as this.
Profile Image for Angela Oliver.
Author 23 books46 followers
November 16, 2020
Dark and unrelenting and beautifully written. I thoroughly enjoyed delving into Litchfield's apocalyptic world and was definitely left wondering.... what happened next?
Profile Image for Tam Francis.
Author 10 books29 followers
July 22, 2022
An excellent twist with originality and surprise in an overcrowded genre. Litchfield starts out with one of the best first sentences I've read in a long time. We know we're not in a happy world. She then proceeds to create compelling characters from various POVs, that all work to tell the story.

Just when you think you've met your protagonist, she turns you on your heels and creates a hero you never saw coming. I love post apocalyptic and dystopian books, and this one doesn't disappoint. At a concise two-hundred and twenty-two pages, it continues to gain speed as it races to a smashing conclusion with yet another twist.

The Night Butterflies soars in cinematic style with scenes that play out like a blockbuster movie, perfect for young adult and beyond.
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews

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