Jullia Alvarez’s beautifully written and engrossing novel In The Time of the Butterflies, is based on the true of events that occurred in the Dominican Republic during the 1960’s. During the final days of the Trujillo dictatorship, three sisters and their driver were ambushed on their way back from home from visiting their jailed husbands. These sisters had been part of an underground movement to overthrow Trujillo and bring freedom back to the people of the Dominican Republic. In their death, these women, known as the Mariposas (the Butterflies) were martyred and became legendary creatures in this country.
While researching and writing this book, Alvarez fictionalized the events and characters, while still keeping true to the spirit of the women during this time. Although the three sisters, Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa were murdered, their fourth sister, Dede and their mother lived to tell the tale. The novel is written primarily through the eyes of Dede, and also from the journal of Maria Teresa as well as narratives from Patria and Minerva. This method fills in the gaps and provides explanations for the changes occurring in the sisters as well as highlighting their strong unity as a family.
The novel tracks the lives of the sisters under the Trujillo dictatorship from their childhood well into their adulthood. We see the girls fall in love, fall out of love, fight against the dictator, sent to jail, and raise their own families. The novel is quickly paced and Alvazez does not linger too much on description, focusing more on the plot. She adds a sense of humanity to these women. While they are strong and symbols of freedom for this country, they are still human with vulnerabilities.
Each narrative is delicately interwoven, where you will see the same scene through a couple of different eyes, overhear the change the conversations but in a different context. In some chapters you are deaf as to what is going with the revolution and in others you are right in the center of the action. Each sister has an identity all her own, and I really admire Alvarez’s ability to do so with the sisters. There were moments in this book where I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream at the injustice of the government, of the inability of change and at the overarching dominance of Trujillo into the everyday lives of the people.
This is a fantastic novel, i really recommend this book.
Other works by the author: