Women's Prize Longlist 2019 Reviews

Women’s Prize Longlist Review – Praise Song for the Butterflies

Praise Song for the Butterflies.jpg


Publisher: Jacaranda

Format: Hardback

Pages: 264

Rating: 5/5

Book Depository: Hardback


Abeo is a happy, healthy nine year old living in West Africa with her loving parents. She is comfortable and safe. That is, until her father falls victim to a string of bad luck. Then Abeo’s life changes forever. Her father takes her to a shrine to become ‘trokosi’, which means she will be forced to practice ritual servitude, or slavery. Abeo is abused for her entire adolescent life, until finally, someone sees her pain and attempts to free her. 

McFadden’s writing is hard hitting and to the point. Ritual servitude is something horrific that needs to be discussed and the author does this extremely effectively within this book. The speech is frantic and desperate at times, and at others, hopeless and desolate, which perfectly matches the content of the story. I understand some people wouldn’t gel with this type of writing, but I thought it was appropriate and clever. 

Each character within the book is there for a reason – either to highlight how disturbing the concept of ritual servitude is, or to emphasise Abeo’s difficult acclimatisation back into a world where she is free. There were many severely dislikeable characters, who made me so angry sometimes I was forced to put the book down for a while and return to it later. 

As discussed above, despite the book’s short length, it is by no means an easy read. It broke my heart, for example, when Abeo was driven to the shrine by her father, Wasik, especially because she blamed herself. There are trigger warnings for rape, violence, suicide, slavery and loss of a parent, so if any of these topics are particularly difficult for you to read about, I’d suggest potentially avoiding this one. 

I would thoroughly recommend this book and it is a shame it didn’t make the shortlist, as it is definitely one of my favourites so far. I’m interested to visit McFadden’s other literary works, and am also intrigued to see what she does in the future. 

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2 thoughts on “Women’s Prize Longlist Review – Praise Song for the Butterflies”

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