‘Paper Butterflies’ – Lisa Heathfield

Paper Butterflies


If you read one book this year, I would urge you to make it this one.

Due for publication at the end of June 2016, this is the second novel by Lisa Heathfield (after reading this, I’ve already purchased a copy of her debut) and it is a genuine must-read.

When we first meet June she is ten years old. Her mother has died and she lives with her father, notably absent, step-mother Kathleen and half-sister Megan. The abuse she suffers at the hands of her ‘new family’ is horrific. Appearances are deceptive, and while everyone thinks June comes from a loving family the systematic humiliation she endures is beyond imaginable.

This is perhaps one of the most uncomfortable books I’ve read in a long time, but it was truly compelling. I felt I couldn’t leave June, much as I wanted to.
When June meets Blister (Jacob Wick) in the woods she gets a chance at happiness, becoming a part of a family that genuinely care for each other. Their friendship really was a crutch to sustain her, but I loved how together they retain a zest for life and laughter.

On one or two occasions June comes close to revealing the extent of the suffering she faces both at home and school. Nothing comes of it. When she finally plucks up the courage to seek help from the one person you would hope she can rely on, the cruelty of the rejection is scalpel-sharp.

I was desperately hoping for a happy ending for June. I wanted to feel there was a chance for good to win. What I got instead was a complete hand-over-my-eyes, stomach-dropping living-hell of an event. At the back of my mind I wondered if this was a step too far – hadn’t June suffered enough? But it certainly acts as a device to enable her to explore fully her feelings towards those who hurt her so much when she was younger.

The final section of the novel really forces us to think about how we as a society respond to events such as those described within this novel. The recurring image of butterflies was powerful, and I felt it fitting that the final words belonged to Blister.

Just, wow!

I cannot thank NetGalley and the publishers enough for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.