Black Butterflies [Book Review]

May 4, 2022
Star Wars Day
(May the 4th be with you!)

Black Butterflies by Priscilla Morris

Black Butterflies by Priscilla Morris (cover) Image: white text over a background of colorful graphic shapes

Genre/Categories/Setting: Historical Fiction, Diverse Reads, Siege of Sarajevo

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

Thanks @BookSirens and the author/publisher for a complimentary eARC of #BlackButterflies upon my request. All opinions are my own.

In the spring of 1992, fifty-five year old Zora can’t imagine that the Siege of Sarajevo will last long. Her husband and elderly mother leave for England, and she stays behind to continue working as an artist and teacher. The situation deteriorates quickly and Zora has waited too long to leave. The places she loves are destroyed and black ashes float around. Zora joins with her friends to survive the days, offer comfort to each other, and find reasons to hope.

“Everything is better when done together. The taste of food and water, the touch when they hug each other hello. They’ve made it through one more day, each reunion a confirmation that they’re still alive.”

My Thoughts:

Reads Like a Memoir: Told from Zora’s POV, the use of third-person helped remind me that this beautifully written, descriptive, heartbreaking, and reflective story wasn’t a memoir!

Denial: The story starts with an element of denial which is also common in the World War11 stories I’ve read. Citizens can’t imagine circumstances could get worse, that the rumors are true, that the occupying force would really threaten lives or cause destruction or take away freedoms or imprison responsible citizens. I think most of us felt a bit of denial early in the Pandemic. This will be over in two weeks. It couldn’t possibly get worse or last for years. It’s human nature to deny that the worst could happen. We see this situation in Ukraine today. Before the Russian invasion, I saw an interview with some Ukrainian citizens and they reported that they were not concerned and planned to continue on with their normal activities…..they are threats we have heard and lived with for years and we’re not worried they said.

Not Black and White: The author depicts the complexities of war that includes turning neighbor against neighbor, making difficult decisions to leave or stay, caring for strangers, family, and friends, waking up one day as a refugee, loyalty to neighborhood and homeland, friends and acquaintances of different ethnicities are suddenly enemies, separation of families, etc.

Costs of War: Black Butterflies vividly details the costs of war, the extent of destruction, and survival strategies for people who are caught in it. The author brings war down to the most personal level. I appreciate the themes of people helping people, resilience, determination, hope, human kindness, and compassion for refugees.

Art: Those who have an appreciation for art will find lots to love about Black Butterflies. Among other subjects, Zora loves to paint bridges and I thought often about those bridges as a metaphor for human connection and in terms of physical escape or entrapment. Art is a tool for survival.

Recommended: I’m recommending Black Butterflies for fans of beautifully written historical fiction, for readers who might be familiar with Sarajevo, for readers who love stories about ordinary people in the most difficult circumstances, and for those who appreciate a memoir-like narrative.

Content Consideration: If you are negatively affected by the coverage of conditions in Ukraine, you might need to know that some content in this book is similar.

My Rating:  4.5 Stars (rounded to 5)

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Black Butterflies by Priscilla Morris (cover) Image: a colorful assortment of various graphic shapes

Black Butterflies Information Here
(I can only find availability from UK Amazon)

Meet the Author, Priscilla Morris

Author Priscilla MorrisPriscilla Morris is of Yugoslav and Cornish parentage. She grew up in London, spending summers in Sarajevo, and studied at Cambridge University and the University of East Anglia, where she gained her PhD in Creative Writing. She now teaches at University College Dublin, and lives between Ireland and Spain. Inspired by real-life accounts of the Siege of Sarajevo (1992–96), Black Butterflies is her debut novel.


Is Black Butterflies on your TBR or have you read it?

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

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