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The Butterfly's Wing
"riveting tale of suspense and intrigue"
"emotional absorbing novel combines political intrigue with all-too human drama"    all reviews
First Published: 1996
Reprint: 2009



Andy McIllray and Tom Dayton are a well-matched couple in their thirties, happy after four years together. Andy has a high-flying job with an international organisation while Tom has given up unrewarding work in catering to look after the smallholding they have bought in Berkshire. Disaster strikes when Andy's work takes him to Peru, where he is kidnapped by the Shining Path guerrilla movement. Tom not only has to deal with Andy's absence but with the intrusion of the tabloid press, which has far-reaching consequences.


An ambitious novel cast in the form of two diaries which record the torment both men are thrown into and which forces them each to face hidden truths about themselves and their relationship. Written in the 1990s, the story weaves major issues of the world at that time with personal agonies as it moves towards its dramatic denouement.


My most widely reviewed and highly praised book. In addition to print runs in the UK and US, an unauthorised translation was published in Taiwan; more copies were sold in Chinese than in both English-language editions together.



Tom: I've been thinking about you and when we met. After that first time. You'd called a couple of times and I wasn't in. I'd meant to phone back but kept putting it off. Then one evening you rang while I was in and we talked for half an hour. Mostly you asking questions. Where I worked, what pubs I went to, did I go to the cinema. I thought you were a nosy bugger, but I didn't mind. I didn't want you to hang up. You had this quiet, calm voice and you really wanted to talk to me. You told me afterwards you had to keep asking questions because otherwise I wouldn't say anything. I did ask you what you did for a living, but it didn't mean anything to me. Project Development for World Aid, you said. I'd never heard of it. When you said it was a charity, I thought it meant you sent out medicines and sacks of rice and flour, but you said it was more like organising teachers and community workers.


There was a kind of pause and I thought you'd decided you didn't want to meet me after all. Then you asked if you could meet me at the cafe the next Saturday afternoon, at the end of my shift. I didn't realise how nervous I was that day until I looked at the time and saw you'd be there in quarter of an hour. It had been one of these days when time flies past and I hadn't had time to think about you. I squeezed into the toilet and sniffed under my arms and tried to wipe away the sweat with toilet paper. I'd brought a spare t-shirt to put on and I was in the middle of changing when Mark knocked on the door and said a handsome stranger was asking for me.


You stood there on the other side of the counter in a check shirt
The Butterfly's Wing by Martin Foreman

Gay Men's Press, UK


The Butterfly's Wing: post to
price includes postage: select destination before adding to cart


out of print



Taiwan, 1997





Lethe Press, USA, 2009

and old leather jacket. Had no-one told you the clone look had been out of date for years? To tell the truth, I was a bit disappointed. You looked better than you had in the pub, but not as good as I'd imagined on the phone. You had this cold expression, stand-offish. I think like me you were shy. We both kind of smiled stiffly and I said goodbye to the others and we stood in the middle of Soho wondering where to go.


Andy: I was young enough not to realise what I was letting myself in for, and young enough that if I had known I would not have cared. I walked into the courtyard in shorts and a crumpled shirt open almost to the waist, a battered rucksack on my shoulders. My Portuguese was rudimentary and heavily influenced by Spanish; it took time for the two young nuns I met to understand why I wanted to see the Mother Superior. I was finally shown into a cool dark room lined with dusty books and old icons, where I waited for quarter of an hour, doubting the wisdom of my decision. A short elderly woman entered and addressed me in a French whose accent I found difficult to follow. Slowly, we managed to communicate. I had heard she might need an English teacher; perhaps I could take the job.

She looked at me warily, asked questions and listened sceptically to my answers. My qualifications were poor, she pointed out. Speaking a language was not the same as teaching it; grammar had to be explained and curricula followed. The pupils came from deprived backgrounds; some were deficient in their native tongue. Nor was she sure about a young man teaching adolescent girls. If she was to take me on, the timetable would have to be changed, which she did not want to do if I were to leave after a week. I only half-heard these objections. The longer I sat in that old-fashioned office, aware of the heat, the dust, distant voices, the more I wanted to stay. There would be no salary, the Mother Superior added, her final defence, only room and board, although I might earn money by giving tuition in town. Fine, I said, determined to stay, and she nodded her reluctant agreement.

My room was one of the whitewashed cells on the far side of the yard allocated to men attached to the convent - gardeners, a handyman and visiting priests. There I prepared lessons, read the devotional books that I found in the small library and wrote letters and a brief and uneventful diary. Three or four times a day I entered one of the long class-rooms where thirty or more shy and well-disciplined girls sat in rows of blue uniforms and white collars. Most were of the mixed race scattered across the Brazilian hinterland, two or three were pure Indian. Despite my inexperience and their lack of interest in English, as the only male teacher, little older than they were and with near-Scandinavian looks, I easily held their attention. My first lessons depended on repetition, rote, spelling and arcane grammar; through trial and error and advice from my fellow teachers, I began to elicit answers rather than supply them, to encourage rather than suppress spontaneity. I began to enjoy teaching, until it dawned on me that English would be of little use to the farm labourers, factory workers, shop assistants and mothers that most of them would become.



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