Summary: Ginny Stone awaits the return of her sister Vivien to their family home, four decades after she left it. Ginny has long been the sole inhabitant of the crumbling mansion and sole keeper of the family’s moth collection. We revisit the past through Ginny’s eyes: her emotionally absent lepidopterist father, from whom she inherits a profession; her emotionally abusive mother’s last days; a childhood accident and a young marriage. Vivien’s return will turn Ginny’s world, so carefully maintained for decades, upside-down.
Firstly, this provides a brief but efficient lay person’s introduction to lepidoptery (which is an excellent word).
Characters are thoughtfully examined – all have very different personalities and are well-represented. Clive is absent, confused, once brilliant but degrades to stumbling through middle-aged mediocrity. Maud was also once brilliant and beautiful, but she descends to drunken abuse. Ginny is calculated and calm, but not unfeeling. Her future was determined by her mother, unlike Vivien, who is as delicate and flighty as the moths of the title – gregarious, impulsive, fragile and yet terribly demanding. No one in the family recovers from Vivi’s demand that Ginny act as a surrogate mother for her.
The flashback structure works – it is linear and insertions are made at appropriate intervals (unlike in Nina Todd Has Gone). I did find the twist at the end rather strange – there appeared to be no reason for it beyond revenge for disturbed memories.
Certainly an engrossing read.