Poppy Adams – The Behaviour of Moths – 6/10

Moths 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.

Reviews from other blogs: The Independent, The Bookseller, The Book Bag, Farm Lane Books, Book Snob

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2 thoughts on “Poppy Adams – The Behaviour of Moths – 6/10

  1. Astripedarmchair.wordpress.com 9 January 2011 at 4:09 pm Reply

    Have you read A.S. Byatt’s Angels & Insects? One of the novellas is centered around lepidoptery! Another marvelous moth-focused novella I read “Cleopatra’s Brimstone” by Elizabeth Hand.
    Anyway, this sounds like fun! Is the 6/10 in the post’s title your rating? If so, what are the downsides of the book?

  2. Yvann 9 January 2011 at 4:41 pm Reply

    Hi Eva, thanks for stopping by! I haven’t read either of the works you’ve recommended but they’re going on the TBR!
    6/10 is my rating, and re-reading my review I can see that it seems a bit strangely low. I found the twist at the end too bizarre – there seemed to be no reason for it at all and it really detracted from the rest of the book because it was so out of character for the protagonist. There is also no reason given for Vivien’s return to the house after four decades.
    But you might like to give it a try!

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