Gay Men's Press, 1996
republished Lethe Press, 2009
read an excerpt
"A welcome return by this excellent novelist"
"Foreman's best work to date"
Gay Times (UK)
"seizes on fresh themes and brings broadening horizons
Xtra West (Canada)
"riveting tale of suspense and intrigue"
Alabama Forum (US)
Library Journal (US)
This has been my most critically acclaimed book.
It has its defects but I think it successfully covers a number of themes
- the integration of a gay couple in the wider world,
the relationship between the developed and developing worlds,
the relationship between individuals and the broader society in
which they live. Most reviewers understood this; a few seemed to be
expecting an adventure - not surprising, given the cover -
and reacted accordingly.
Perhaps the greatest flattery has been that the book was translated,
without permission, into Chinese for distribution within Taiwan
- and the print run for that island of 15 million people was higher
than the original print run for sales throughout the English-speaking world.
I was at first skeptical of this novel when I read the book jacket, but within
the first couple of pages I was completely engrossed in the formation of these
beautifully drawn characters. Martin Foreman skillfully develops two very unique
and distinctive voices, detailing the day to day lives of the main characters.
It is his eye for the little touches that really makes this book work. This is
not an action adventure story, as one might presume of a kidnapping story, but
an in-depth analysis of the traumas and mundanities of the time spent waiting
for the release of a hostage.... With it comes a layman's understanding of world
sociology. A worthy read.
Martin Foreman's first* novel, The Butterfly's Wing, is both irritating and strangely readable - so much so that once I started I couldn't put it down.
When Andy McIllray is captured by guerillas in Peru, both he and his partner Tom start to write a journal. We therefore read the story of their separation, the intrusion by the tabloid press, and the history of their relationship through the words of the chief protagonists. This style lends the book much of its immediacy, and the mild annoyance I felt.
To fill in the background, both diarists resort to 'I remember when we did so-and-so...', a device which begins to feel more and more contrived. Foreman cleverly manages to maintain a different writing style for each of his lead characters, although his attempt to portray the poorly educated Tom through less stylish prose also managed to irritate me at times.
Despite these minor gripes, this is a story which succeeds in getting you to care about what happens, and the biggest disappointment is that we never discover how these two men cope after the separation.
'irritating and strangely readable'? Further comment would be superfluous.
* It's my second novel.
This novel beautifully captures the voices of two gay men, lovers who are different from one another in many different ways and whose differences both strengthen and challenge their relationship.
Martin Foreman's book will interest readers drawn to novels in which characters are deeply explored and what makes them tick is the primary subject matter. The Butterfly's Wing is composed entirely as diary entries written by the two main characters, a format that enables us to experience their introspection and emerging self-knowledge almost as if it were our own.
The diaries serve as a record for what each man thinks and
experiences during a wrenching period of well over a year
when they are forced apart because one of them, Andy,
who works for an international human rights organization,
has been kidnapped by guerrillas while on assignment in Peru. His lover, Tom, remains on their farm in rural England for most of this time. Each faces adversity head on: Andy struggles to keep his sanity and remain alive while chained to the wall of a dank room somewhere in the Andes and Tom has to eke out a living and cope with loneliness while weathering the intrusion of the tabloid press.
The diaries are their coping mechanisms for grappling with extraordinary circumstances, though they also serve to contemplate the future and consider the past. They are most poignant when they become the vehicles to express how the characters feel about one another, espectially when such feelings are complicated and conflicted, as one might expect with any couple. Andy's efforts often attempt to understand the circumstances that have led to his imprisonment by terrorists, and for that reason this novel might appeal especially to readers with an interest in world politics.
Since the two main characters in this novel never actually speak to one
another, The Butterfly's Wing is in some important way about the cost
of silence, specifically of not always saying to the people we love the most
what we really wanted to say to them. The universality of this theme enhances
the novel's many merits.
Dr G Douglas Meyes is Professor of English at the University of
Texas at El Paso.
Reviews like this I like, not only because they flatter the ego, but because they tell me that others see insights that I don't. It hadn't occurred to me that TBW was about 'the cost of silence', but I'll go along with such an analysis.
1 October 1996
Tom Dayton, a some-time waiter, and Andy McIllray, a worker for an international aid organization, own a small farm in the English countryside, where they enjoy a quiet life until Andy, while in Peru, is kidnapped by guerrillas of the Shining Path movement. The diary format used here introduces us to Tom nearly a year after Andy has vanished. Through his entries, we learn of their pasts and his hopes for the future, as well as how he copes with reporters, friends, and his farm. Provided with notebooks, Andy writes of his struggles to convince his captors to free him. The novel is filled with multidimensional characters, emotion, and wonderful descriptions of scenery, and the plot moves smoothly. A minor distraction is the British terminology. Foreman (A Sense of Loss, Gay Men, 1993) has written a powerful piece of fiction. Recommended.
Theodore R. Salvadori, Margaret E. Heggan, Free P.L. Hurffville, N.J.
The kind of review every writer likes to receive, apart from the dig at British terminology...
Martin Foreman's The Butterfly's Wing is also* disturbing, though in a less extreme way. His is the story of an established couple one of whom - Andy McIllray - is kidnapped and held hostage by the Shining Path Guerrillas in Peru, whilst the other - Tom Dayton - as the novel opens, has been waiting for news of his lover for over a year.
Andy has been trying to promote democracy throughout the Third World whilst the Shining Path Guerrillas are championing communism. During long discussions that take place over the course of his captivity, it becomes clear to Andy (and to a lesser extent, his captors) that both capitalism and communism are unworkable Utopian ideals. Juxtaposed with this absorbing and intelligent political dialogue is the very human story of the anguish of enforced separation, in which both men are blighted by the uncertainty of whether they will ever see each other again. Foreman's best work to date.
Another welcome review, although it entirely omits the tribulations Tom goes through.
* Beaumont precedes this paragraph with a review of The Blood Countess by Andrei Codrescu