Review of “The Night Butterflies,” By: Sara Litchfield/ Literary Tea Feature


INDIE AUTHOR APPRECIATION MONTH!

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Encapsulating the experience of reading Sara Litchfield’s intense, almost psychedelic/nightmarish dystopian novel The Night Butterflies in linear words feels self-defeating, or even borderline futile (much like the process of reaching genetic perfection, for a certain crop of children, a central conflict of the novel). Venturing into this month-long quest (for the whole of December, here on this blog) to read a litany of self-published novels, has involved dipping into many genre pools in a single book. Sara Litchfield’s book may be dystopian and post-apocalyptic, categorically-speaking, yet the core of the novel’s rare beauty is in its unvarnished, non-bowdlerized linguistic experimenting, where we see a development of language emerge, as readers gain more knowledge of the mechanisms and the overlay of the story’s dystopian world.

    There are no love-triangles, trysts, torrid affairs, or general romantic melodrama to speak of, but plenty of nuanced human psychodrama, deep sociological/even anthropological study of a degenerative society (after nuclear holocaust of some kind, or even just an environmental/quasi-Global Warming event). The Night Butterfly is about both life and death, and how the meaning of this central dichotomy of our lives is altered by the circumstances of our own environment, which predictably shapes the dystopian world that grows to seek to erroneously deal/or try to adapt to new environmental conditions. Before getting bogged down into too much dystopian vs. utopian semantics, I will say that The Night Butterfly is a unique dystopian book, in that it takes scattered dystopian ideas and concepts from past stories- the ideological control of 1984,the polarizing gender politics of  The Handmaid’s Tale– and creates an even more subtly crafted dystopian world, which has a story that could behave as a commentary about gender politics, the toll environmental catastrophes have on our own social laws/mores, the idea that desperation and fear from the human psyche allows everything we love and cherish about the world (and the very concept of beauty) be tamed and controlled by some omniscient governmental force that preserves peace, while sacrificing our freedom and sense of identity.

   Narrating the story are different representatives of this new world-the mothers that are used as “experimental breeding mothers” to help the government reach genetic perfection w/ the new crop of infants (purposelessly using the demeaning terms to show the mechanized/ almost utilitarian function of a dystopian government); the batch of children themselves (with powerful telekinetic abilities);the servile scientific men that worked on perfecting genetic experiments and creating many drugs;and the “brain” of the operations itself. In many dystopian narratives, the shadowy, militant, dictatorial leader is always the classic mythological vice model of “hubris,” a vice of “overweening pride,” that has almost always been related in fiction as something that is a grave transgression, from the story of Oedipus, to Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein. And the surprise behind the slow reveal of just how this leader has control over everyone, and keeps them imprisoned in their specific societal role (very much hearkening back to Charles Dicken’s Hard Times, the original dystopian book, in a sense).

The beauty of Sara Litchfield’s writing is the expert use of subtle writing, exemplifying the rule of “show. don’t tell.” The theme of change and metamorphosis, served by the story’s  symbolical representation of butterflies and moths in the novel, are implicit in their development throughout the novel. And the incendiary spark of silent, though effective psychological bravery- the miracles of edification and clear-headed epiphanies- are the things that allow a grand metamorphic process to be effected in the second half of the books. Meanwhile, the first half is really the quiet, somber, cocoon period of the novel, where we are given very visceral, very poignant images of the muted trauma, felt by the various characters of the story, and the ongoing conflict to really break free of the shackles, induced by a society that needed a fear-driven dystopia to help shield the world from the trauma of change. Change of any kind is an unsettling experience for any of us, causing violent revolutions, wars (two world wars were essentially the consequence of the seismic changes of modernity). It is no wonder that dystopian fiction is here to stay, and Sara Litchfield’s very well-written, poetic beauty of a novel, The Night Butterflies, is a eye-opening, haunting, infectiously engrossing dystopian novel, that any fans of the genre should really consider reading.

 

Recently, a  Bibliophile’s Workshop (my freelance publicity/formatting/editorial/audiobook narration for self-published writers) has been given the awesome privileged, granted by Sara Litchfield (the author herself) to publish a sample audio narration I did of two select chapters, from the beginning of her book The Night Butterflies. Her beautiful, poetic, subtly deep language was something that totally invigorated me as a writer, to always be sure to write by painting pictures, versus ponderously describing exposition-related details. The minute you telegraph your book, it becomes didactic, and staccato-like knocking your reader out of the story. If you are far from your character’s psychological core, you are writing with your own feelings of the world, versus the feelings of those characters themselves. I have been very careful recently to only write, while diving deeply into the minds of my characters, then write, while wading in the deep depths of their subconscious pools (the pool imagery makes me think of CS Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew.) But that is what I loved about Sara Litchfield’s book most of all, the commentary to be gleaned from reading the story is entirely subjective, and can be altered based on different thoughts readers project onto the story.

Anyways, here is the two chapters, one from the viewpoint of one the experimental children, who speaks in a mechanical, staccato-like language, showing how the minds of those in this dystopian world are so divorced from emotion, that they cannot talk with the same enthused way, we talk about something, when passionate. The next section is from his mother’s perspective, who experiences a different sort of undetectable repression of sorts, through the administering of mind-altering drugs, produced by the main government in this world, to help the citizens of the world escape the trauma that lurks in their minds. All the drugs of the world protect from physical rrealities like pollution of the decaying,post-nuclear holocaust world, and the psychological dissolution of the world itself.

Have a listen, to the clip below, and please be sure to visit the Audiobook sub-page on my Bibliophile’s Workshop  page, for more details if you wish to inquire after the services I offer self-published authors, to produce crisp, (hopefully) high-quality recordings of their cherished works!

Night Butterfly Tea, or Mighty Leaf’s Celebration Tea aka. Metamorphosis Tea

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      The featured tea for Sara Litchfield’s is Mighty Leaf’s intoxicating, bold, darkly sweet Celebration Tea. This tea is composed mainly of really good, strong Black Tea, with some sweet, resilient Chinese Fruit Longan to soften the boldness of the black tea base. These two distinctive, almost clashing personalities of the tea richly embodies the paradox of inhabiting a dystopian world, a paradox felt by all the characters in different degrees, throughout the engrossing tale of the novel. Meaning, they know they inhabit a somber, moody world, and one might think of Black Tea as having a deceptively somber mood to its rich,bold taste. How can black tea be also sweet, and memorable? Well, the tea also contains a  slight note of sweet Longan, and even the semi-sweet taste of chocolate liqueur, to further deepen and enhance the experience of drinking Mighty Leaf’s Celebration Tea (or metamorphosis tea). This blending of different tones, attributable to the three core ingredients for this tea, metaphorically reflects the  fact that even though tthe dystopian world in The Night Butterflies may seem hopeless at times, there is always an underlying optimistic passion and zeal,in the psyches of all the characters, yearning for a more freer world.

    And the Celebration Tea perfectly embodies that complex, paradoxical relationship in the minds of the characters of Sara Litchfield’s story, who are fighting, essentially, for freedom. This is the tea to drink after you triumphed over an evil, oppressive, dystopian regime, because it delicately blends the memories of the suffering wrought through dystopian type situations In the end, and also perfectly caps off the pure, celebratory occasion of finally psychologically emancipating yourself from the demeaning hardship of once being under the power of a corrupt, tyrannical government.

Drink it, and savor it during the end of any dystopian novel!

TEA GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

If you are interested in winning a complimentary tea from Mighty Leaf Tea, be sure to enter the giveaway by clicking the Mighty Leaf Tea Holiday Guide Ad below (which has the link to the appropriate Rafflecopter App. attached)

**Contest Open Only to those who live in the U.S.**

THANK YOU TO MIGHTY LEAF TEA FOR SUPPORTING THIS CONTEST. FOR INDIE AUTHOR APPRECIATION MONTH!!

 

 

 

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