Published: 28/04/2014
ISBN: 9781783063024
eISBN: 9781783067329
Format: Paperback/eBook

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The Summer of the Mourning Cloak
by Kathleen Nelson

The Summer of the Mourning Cloak is the story of a visit which changes lives forever. The title refers to a beautiful, rarely seen butterfly, The Camberwell Beauty, sometimes know as The Mourning Cloak, which is used throughout the novel to symbolise the emotional journey of the protagonist. The main character is an 11-year-old girl, Hyslop, who arrives in England from Italy with her emotionally distant mother Vanessa. In the past they have flitted from the shelter of one wealthy man to another, but Hyslop finally finds love and stability from her godmother Sandy and an eccentric old man, Sir Northcote Hemmings. He teaches her about butterflies and asks her to find him a Camberwell Beauty, a butterfly that is something of a Holy Grail for both of them.

The parallel world of butterflies that is explored throughout the narrative invites the reader into Hyslop’s imagination, where her fascination with butterflies mirrors her desire to be free from her mother’s cruel domination. Hyslop is shadowed by a lonely local boy, Zak, who is bullied both at home and at school, and his fascination with her reflects the way her glamorous mother charms everyone with her beauty. As flighty Vanessa’s powers start waning, Hyslop is just beginning to find her wings. Will Hyslop find her ideal habitat in the end?

This book offers a refreshing insight into a child’s perspective of our natural world and will appeal primarily to children aged 10 to 16, whilst also interesting butterfly lovers of any age. The detailed descriptions of British butterflies are both informative and entertaining. They educate the reader whilst taking them on a rich and colourful adventure. Kathleen Nelson admires children’s books by Philip Pullman which blur the genre boundaries between children’s and adult fiction. She suggests that her book is reminiscent of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

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Review of Summer of the Mourning Cloak (27 May 2014) :

"....It is the most beautifully written book that draws you into the situations as if you are permanently a fly on the wall, or perhaps a butterfly hovering over Hyslop. The characters are so well drawn, I have very clear impressions of Northy, Sandy and Vanessa....I found myself reading faster and faster as the story gripped me, wanting to know the outcome....The age recommendation I would modify to anyone over the age of 11, as I found myself becoming part of the plot, and revelling in your delightful descriptive passages, and I am clearly a tad over 11!"

Review by Chesham author, John Flint. (Author of "Table for One, Sir?")


What if Knits

Cayocosta72 Book Blog, 29 April

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