This is how it appears to me now, as I look back, without perhaps fully adhering to the chronology of events.
When your husband and lover dump you on the same day and you’re driving around with road kill in the boot of your car, life can seem more than a little out of control! Add into the mix two lottery wins and the impromptu guardianship of a friend’s four-year-old deaf son, it can soon drift into the ridiculous. Butterflies in November explores a snapshot of time in one woman’s life when everything gets turned on its head and the need to escape becomes paramount!
This novel gives all the indications that this will be a traditional tale of self-discovery and yet its delivery is much more complex than that. It is an ambiguous, obscure and drifting narrative that veers into the truly bizarre on occasion! The ultimate destination of the tale remains unclear right up until the end, which has the propensity to unnerve as well as surprise a reader. I was never sure what the objective for the protagonist was as she escapes her old life with small boy in tow and the episodic encounters she has along the way don’t ever seem to stick profoundly to her, as one would expect in a journey tale.
For me, everything felt slightly offbeat in this novel, which made it quite difficult to fully grasp what is happening and who is involved! Characters, mostly unnamed, pop up and disappear at a moment’s notice and the fragmented flashbacks segment the chapters in the most unusual places. Some of the more obscure sentence structures may be attributed to the fact that this is a translated text but I think that Ólafsdóttir’s style is naturally disjointed which makes it a difficult read to dip in and out of.
I wanted to love this book in the same way I absolutely adored Swedish title The Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared but I just couldn’t connect with it. It feels like it should be darkly comic but I was struggling to find the humour through the surreal and felt quite detached from the characters and their motives. This book has enjoyed great success internationally as a translated text – it just wasn’t one for me.