Butterfly Burning by Yvonne Vera

Every now and then, one comes across a piece of literature that one cannot stand. Instead of feeling satisfied, emotional, or mind-blown, you are left with a small feeling of regret that either festers or is properly dealt with. Personally speaking, there are some things I’ve read that mid-way I realize I would rather burn to eradicate my frustration (I’m exaggerating, I would never) than continue.

Presently, Butterfly Burning by Yvonne Vera is raising my blood pressure. Frankly, it is the first novel I’ve ever read with a “stream of thought” writing style. I’ll be honest with you, a friend of mine helped classify the writing style for me. That is how new it was to me when I first started reading it. The novel is basically about a relationship between two characters, Fumbatha and Phephelaphi (I love that name) set in Southern Rhodesia, presently Zimbabwe, during the 1940s. A majority of the context is poetic and descriptive. There is little dialogue between the characters. A few of the themes present within Butterfly Burning are colonialism, feminism, and poverty.

Butterfly Burning
Butterfly Burning by Yvonne Vera and a mug of green tea for my nerves

This book was one of the selected readings for the African Literature course I completed last semester. At least back then I had some motivation to read it because I can never bring myself to bullshit an essay. Ironically, one of my favorite essays written last semesters is on this book. I’ll post that essay…why not?

This book certainly needs patience and an active mind. I’m struggling. I’m tempted to put the book away and start another I’ve been curious to read. I have completed 90/151 pages…should I just keep going…? Nevertheless, this novel is an eye-opener. It does not follow the “normal” format of novel writing. In fact, it lead to a mind-blowing moment after another student mentioned how we, readers, grew up with a sort of “standard” for the format of novel writing and that that was one of the major reasons why we, the class, were having difficulties reading Butterfly Burning.

With that said, I don’t feel like a complete idiot for not being able to handle this book. Maybe I should just take a break and then come back to it later. The important thing is that I will eventually finish it. At least I’ve been exposed to a piece of literature that breaks from the “norm”. My gut tells me that there are more readings that don’t fall into the “norm”. I have a sudden urge to find another!

Calm down and finish this one first!


So I praise this novel for making me realize that I have internalized a certain format for novels and that student for explaining it in nicer words. Wish I could remember what she said word for word though.

The blurb

If your writing style doesn’t fall into the norm, that is brilliant.



One thought on “Butterfly Burning by Yvonne Vera

  1. Pingback: Traveling | THE BUBBLY BIBLIOMANIC

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