Rachael King has worked in radio, television and magazines, and played bass guitar in several bands. The recipient of the 2005/6 Lilian Ida Smith Award, she lives in Wellington, New Zealand. This is her first novel.
This first novel by New Zealand writer King is set a century ago in England and in the Brazilian rain forest, and the stark contrast between the two locales is one of the story's pleasures. In the South American jungle, amateur butterfly collector Thomas Edgar joins a naturalist expedition and soon realizes that he's in way over his head as he stumbles upon atrocities connected to the booming rubber industry. What happens to Thomas in the jungle is a source of mystery for his wife, Sophie, who cannot understand why her husband has returned home unwilling to speak. Simultaneously, she must grapple with the prying eyes of a society ready to judge harshly anyone who steps out of the mainstream. The building tensions of what husband and wife deal with separately are handled well, and the protagonist's obsession with butterflies is convincing. The conclusion isn't entirely persuasive, as horror piles quickly upon horror and the couple's estrangement is resolved too quickly and neatly. Still, this is an exotic adventure story and an impressive debut. Recommended for all libraries.-Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
In this rich debut from New Zealander King, amateur naturalist Thomas Edgar leaves his young wife, Sophie, behind, and sets off from turn-of-the-20th-century England for the Brazilian Amazon. His quarry is an elusive butterfly that he hopes to be the first to find and name for his wife-the Papilio sophia. Thomas returns to England many months later physically weak, obviously disturbed and unable to speak. Frustrated and concerned, Sophie desperately seeks the cause of his turmoil. Her search reveals a world of corruption and violence, spearheaded by the rubber tycoon, Mr. Santos, who bankrolled Thomas and his fellows. King employs Apocalypse Now levels of depravity to get across the greedy, exploitative nature of the rubber trade at the beginning of the 20th century; it's enough to make the protagonist mute, and it may have a similar effect on the squeamish reader. But the violent twists are more shocks to the system than to the plot, which founders when furthest from Thomas and Sophie. There's plenty of life in their strained marriage, though, making this a noteworthy debut, and King a writer to watch. (Oct.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.