Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Papillon” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


(Papillon #1)

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  63,946 ratings  ·  2,293 reviews
Henri Charrière, called "Papillon," for the butterfly tattoo on his chest, was convicted in Paris in 1931 of a murder he did not commit. Sentenced to life imprisonment in the penal colony of French Guiana, he became obsessed with one goal: escape. After planning and executing a series of treacherous yet failed attempts over many years, he was eventually sent to the notorio ...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published August 1st 2006 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1969)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Papillon, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers... (view spoiler)
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  63,946 ratings  ·  2,293 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Papillon
Sep 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
My mother knew Papillon and another one of the characters in the book (Francoise). He was a customer of my uncle's restaurant Il Padrino, in Venezuela, back in the 60's,70's (after this story was told). My brother was just an infant/toddler at this time and they would take turns throwing him in the air, swinging him, etc.. I told this guy Neil about this and he was shocked that my family knew this guy. He had read the book and loved it so much. So as a gift, he gave me a copy of the book.

This b
Ahmad Sharabiani
Papillon, Henri Charrière

Henri Charrière (16 November 1906 – 29 July 1973) was a French writer, convicted as a murderer by the French courts.

He wrote the famous novel Papillon, a memoir of his incarceration in and escape from a penal colony in French Guiana.

While Charrière claimed that Papillon was largely true, modern researchers believe that much of the book’s material came from other inmates, rather than Charrière himself.

Charrière denied committing the murder, although he freely admitted
Andrew Smith
Jan 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read this book in the mid 70's, as a teenager. Then I read it again. And then, a little while later, I saw the film. The three events have subsequently blended into one and I certainly now have difficulty differentiating the book from the film. But that's no big deal as I know the film followed the written narrative pretty closely. It's a true story of one man's battle against injustice and the terrible personal consequences that transpired.

It left a big impression on me. It was a big story. A
Henri Charrière's utterly consuming autobiography has blown me away! Henri was called "Papillon" because of his chest butterfly tattoo which features on the cover of this edition. Unjustly convicted for murder in Paris in 1931 and sentenced to life imprisonment on French Guiana, he became utterly obsessed with escape.

The book superbly covers his planning and executions of numerous escapes which have you as a reader transfixed but also imploring for him to succeed. His intense fight for freedom r
Henri Charrière, nicknamed Papillon because of the tattoo he wears on his chest, is sentenced to life imprisonment for a murder he claims not to have committed. He sent to Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, from where he escaped with two other convicts. This time is where his incredible adventure begins.
This fact made up of several different facets. It understands moments of indescribable joy, especially present during the beginnings of successful runs with her companions of fortune. These moments often t
Steven Godin
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, france
One can only presume Henri Charriere (Papillon, or simply Papi to inmates) was a cat in a previous life, and was still blessed with nine lives in this, believe me he needed all of them. Nine death-defying escapes from the brutal penal settlements of French Guiana in eleven years, pushing his stubborn body to the brink each time, wow!, now that's quite something, how it was even possible for a man of flesh and bone not to die a hundred deaths whilst also going round the bend is beyond me. He woul ...more
Dec 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a story! Papillon is an autobiographical novel about a man who in 1931 was charged with killing someone (of course, the author claims he was innocent) and he was sentenced to a life of hard labor at a penal colony in French Guiana.

After many weeks of planning, he managed to escape on a raft and sailed hundreds of miles to Colombia. He spent several months living happily in a fishing village -- with not one but two wives! -- but he was eventually picked up by the authorities and sent back t
Aaron Arnold
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2011, fiction
I don't care if this book wasn't a 100% factual, honest-to-God documentary account of what actually happened to this guy - it was a magnificent adventure novel, full of blood and drama and action. From what I can tell, Charrière cobbled the narrative out of his own experiences as a prisoner in the pitiless camps of 1930s French Guyana, plus the stories of a few camp-mates, plus his own dramatic license, emerging with a masterpiece. There were many moments where the story is less than totally pla ...more
Layla ✷ Praise the sun ✷
I had a hard time to believe a lot of the stuff in this memoir and was hardly surprised when I read that a lot of it was actually invented or had in reality happened not to Charrière but to his inmates.

Papillon was interesting as a narrative novel transmitting a message about the French punitive system back at that time, but even though Charrière could almost get philisophical at times, I personally couldn't get myself to like him at all and the plot was repetitive.
Charrière seemed rather full
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction-i-own
I wavered a bit on my 4* rating but in the end I decided it's such a great adventure that I'm sure I won't forget - so four stars it is. I've seen in other review there is some question in the authenticity, (and I did think that some of Papillon's adventures were over-the-top, especially making it so far in the sea on coconuts!) but I guess I don't care because it is great storytelling. I do think some of the book is a bit repetitive and a bit long but overall I really enjoyed it. Now I really h ...more

Description: Henri Charrière, called "Papillon," for the butterfly tattoo on his chest, was convicted in Paris in 1931 of a murder he did not commit. Sentenced to life imprisonment in the penal colony of French Guiana, he became obsessed with one goal: "escape." After planning and executing a series of treacherous yet failed attempts over many years, he was eventually sent to the notorious prison, Devil's Island, a place from which no one had ever escaped
Apr 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I saved this book from the discard pile, from one of the school libraries I worked in while living in Indiana.

This story was even better the second time around. I am glad I reread it.
Dec 08, 2006 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adventure Novel lovers
This book is incredible. It is the TRUE story of a prison break from a penal colony in French Guiana which was later made into a movie with Steve McQueen--another of my favorites. If you liked Shawshank, you'll love Papillon.

Henri Charrier, called Papillon for the butterfly tattoo on his chest, was convicted in Paris in 1931 for a murder he did not convict and was shipped off to French Guiana. It takes years and several failed attempts for Papillion to escape in this nail-biting story of amazin
Jun 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Wow! yes
Its my favorite book till date. One word for it - WOW..Its just amazing and the way the author has described the life of a man in the prisons is amazing. Its wonderful how he tells this man's story spanning so many years. I saw this movie as a kid..I must be very young then maybe class 5 or younger..and ever since then I had a desire in me to read this book whenever I get a chance.

Papillon means butterfly and it symbolises the protagonists' desire to get free from the clutches of jail. The vivi
Sarah (needs a break from reviewing)
16/6 - Knowing nothing about this book or Charrière, only knowing the word papillon and it's English translation through the fact that there's a dog breed that's called papillon because the dog's fluffy ears (vaguely) resemble a butterfly's wings, I picked this up off the 'new and recently returned' shelf because the blurb on the back described it as "A classic memoir of prison breaks and adventure". And 'adventure' sounded like the right genre for me at that moment in time. I read the translato ...more
Aug 27, 2007 rated it it was ok
Papillon was an enjoyable enough summer read; it was just a little hard to suspend my disbelief at times for a supposedly nonfiction endeavor. I was unsurprised to see in my post-reading research that large portions the story were disputed and that several of Charriere's fellow inmates have claimed over the years that he incorporated the experiences of other would-be escapees and presented them as his own story. I guess this book was a precursor of sorts to A Million Little Pieces in that both a ...more
Debbie Zapata
I had read this many years ago, and of course I've seen the movie more than once. I mean the classic one with Steve McQueen (sigh) as Papillon. So I knew the story but while I was living in Mexico I found the sequel at a used book table at one of the regular book fairs in the main plaza in town.

I never knew there was a sequel so I got it but promised myself to read this first. It had been a very long time since I read Papillon and some of it I didn't remember at all. But I enjoyed the book and r
Trevor Wiltzen
Nov 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Papillon: this is a perfect novel to read during a Pandemic.

A petty thief in France wrongly convicted of murder, Henri Charrière is sent to a French Guiana penal colony to serve out a life sentence. His book is marketed as an autobiography, although journalists of the era found many false or fanciful parts. But it doesn’t matter. The man writes with a passion and a sense of storytelling beyond compare. He wrote his history on a whim, expecting to hand it off to an editor to be fixed or forgotten
RJ - Slayer of Trolls
It's been a while since I cried "uncle" but today I had to do it again. In the past several years I have suffered through William Gibson's Spook Country AND - yes, I believe I may be a glutton for punishment - Zero History (a novel about...jeans?). I did my best to stay awake through Kazuo Ishiguro's galactically dull Never Let Me Go (but please, I do so want to let you go). I forced my way through The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (next time, YOU take it). Waded through Wicked, clumped through ...more
Mar 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-books, favorites
So fascinating, haunting; you feel the pain and ecstasy. No escape till the last page, you sail along all 'Cavale' with them.

Even though the author is silent all throughout the novel, on the plot of his conviction for murder in France except by saying that he was innocent, we really feel that he was really innocent. This, the author succeeds to prove through various instances in the novel. We also feel many occasions unbelievable where we see he is recognized instantly, and many show sympathy to
Wayne Barrett
I was disappointed with this one. I added it based on memory of the old 70's classic starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman and maybe for that reason my expectations were too high.

There were a couple of intense parts to the story, so I will at least give this a 2, but overall, the story ran on, seeming to repeat itself with similar encounters. The translation may be to blame, but I thought the writing was amateurish. Henri Charriere was writing about his own encounter in escaping the French
Hesamul Haque
May 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Never give up the fight, and that even when there seems no way out the way of the warrior, win or lose, is the correct way.
Books are such a wonderful thing that it teaches you all and me being very curious, we have become best friends now.
This was one of the best autobiographies I have ever read. The determination of papillon is beyond explanation. The tattoo on his chest of a papillon really meant something, he was never meant to be caged. An awesome journey, many things to learn from and wil
Jared N P
Aug 07, 2020 rated it liked it
It kinda drags too much for me. It has its interesting moments though. But in the end, I didn't care much. ...more
Devran ikiz
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What is the price of your freedom? Papillon's price for freedom is equal to his life. Reading a story like this makes me realize how lucky I am to have this kind of life because probably if I was in Henri's shoes I would have been dead for a very long time. No matter what happens to him he has one thing in his mind. To Escape. Because he was accused of a crime that he didn't commit makes his will to escape stronger.
He claims that Papillon is a true story. Some events might be real but there is n
Feb 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
What an amazing story!!! It is questionable as to what is true and what is not...many people have poked holes in Henri's story since its publication. However, still a fantastic book that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a good old school adventure story of daring prison breaks and survival even when all seems lost. ...more
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
550 pages of prison escapes. Exciting, but wow, so many failed attempts. I figure if Papillon lived through 14 years of horror, the least I can do is read his 550 pages of escapes. He's certainly an example of "do not go gentle." ...more
Marcio Tomazela
Oct 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is the Best book I ever read.

I remember I started to read it when I was 14, and during long travels to sorocaba city I used to read a little of it, getting back in favourite parts.

Henri Charrière did something completally amazing. Not one, but two: First was the escaping itself, from Devil Island.. secound was to describle this with perfect details, something that makes us imagine each movement and each scene...

His passion for life made he survive to a unfair punishment and escape from many
Jul 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
I have been meaning to read this book for a long time so I decided to tackle the 600+ pages this week.
I loved the film and enjoyed the book almost as much. I have read that there is a debate as to how much of the story is Charriere's own experiences but nevertheless it makes a great read.
Even though some of the adventures do take a lot of believing he obviously lived an extraordinary life and this book is well worth reading.
I. Merey
Damn, but I love the 'redemption' genre! I'm sure there's an official genre title, but that's what I call it. You know the deal: 'Shawshank Redemption', 'A Million Little Pieces', 'Shantaram'.
...The protagonist is thrown into jail (or a mental institution)... often on a drummed up charge. Fighting tooth and nail to survive incarceration with the spirit intact, hungering to escape and punish those who put them there to begin with.

OR the book starts right after the jail-break, and the protag wants
Stephen Robert Collins
Jul 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this long time ago but even now I can still visualise this book it slow dark grasping atmosphere .
If never read it you enjoy it's autobiographical description & this came out long before Shawshank or the Green mile .I was only 15 when read this & it's sequal Banko it is like Swing Hammer Swing by Jeffrey Torrington or Angles Ashes.
The Dustin Hoffman & Steve McQueen movie was not bad too.
But like Q & A which end up as Slumdog Millionaire this book is much better.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Around the World ...: Discussion for Papillon 4 37 Jun 03, 2021 11:52AM  
Please, combine 1 8 May 02, 2020 06:25AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Page count update needed 5 26 Dec 12, 2019 03:30AM  
Retro Chapter Chi...: February 2019: Papillion by Henri Charriere 75 18 Mar 29, 2019 06:02PM  
Books2Movies Club: Papillon - book and adaptations 3 13 Nov 07, 2017 01:24PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Mr. Nice
  • Midnight Express
  • Shantaram
  • Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail
  • The Damage Done: Twelve Years of Hell in a Bangkok Prison
  • A Filha do Papa (Vaticano #4)
  • Musical Chairs
  • More Than Love, A Husband's Tale
  • Pardaillan et Fausta
  • Five Bestselling Travel Memoirs Box Set
  • Shogun (Shogun #3)
  • La Fin de Fausta
  • La Fin de Pardaillan
  • The Alley Cat
  • The Godfather (The Godfather, #1)
  • A Resignação (Vaticano, #5)
  • A Legacy of Madness: Recovering My Family from Generations of Mental Illness
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Henri Charrière was a convicted murderer chiefly known as the author of Papillon, a hugely successful memoir of his incarceration in and escape from a penal colony on French Guiana.

Other books in the series

Papillon (2 books)
  • Banco: The Further Adventures of Papillon

Related Articles

The last five years of world history have been nothing if not...eventful. When living in interesting times, there's nothing better for...
95 likes · 18 comments
“We have too much technological
progress, life is too hectic, and our society has only one goal: to invent
still more technological marvels to make life even easier and better.
The craving for every new scientific discovery breeds a hunger for
greater comfort and the constant struggle to achieve it. All that kills the
soul, kills compassion, understanding, nobility. It leaves no time for
caring what happens to other people, least of all criminals. Even the
officials in Venezuela's remote areas are better for they're also
concerned with public peace. It gives them many headaches, but they
seem to believe that bringing about a man's salvation is worth the
effort. I find that magnificent.”
“I must prove that I can be, that I am and will be, a normal person. Perhaps no better, but certainly no worse than the rest.” 27 likes
More quotes…