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Butterfly In The Wind

Written by Patricia Symmons and Viola Davis for Barbados Advocate on no date provided

Lakshmi Persaud’s first novel Butterfly in the Wind which is set in Trinidad is a work of great readability. Obviously autobiographical, it is one of the few books to come out of the Caribbean with a woman’s slant and a woman’s sensitivity. It is at the same time a book that men and women will enjoy. The writer’s complete empathy with women and her compassion for their sufferings are patent: ‘I was overcome by a deep sorrow for my sex in bondage, and for the real and terrifying predicament biology and custom had placed them in.’

Lakshmi Persaud’s theme of nurturing and caring also centres round the woman. It is evident that the real influences are female. This Butterfly in the Wind may also be described as a celebration of Caribbean women and their strengths, whether it be the single parent, Renee who has to do the ironing, the teacher or the grandmother.

The naming of trees, plants and flowers and the description of food preparation are other feminine touches: ‘He never sat down to breakfast, but had an egg nog, a swizzled mixture of warm milk, one fresh egg, a tablespoon of brandy and a dash of grated nutmeg, which I brought to him from the kitchen to wherever he might be.’ In addition to ‘that therapy of female understanding and care’ there is the scholarly mind of the author which reflects on the early cross fertilisation of cultures shown in the way Christmas is celebrated by other religious groups. Moreover, she shows her tolerance, and openness to other values when she asserts: ‘I want to learn from both sides.’

A great deal of light is shed too on Hindu customs and their high standards of morality, and on education in colonial times. The title of the novel is both significant and intriguing. We see Kamla in her childhood innocence bewildered at human nastiness. But there is also a sense of the magic and enjoyment of life which is seen in her identification with, the butterfly. ‘On each fan was a single dark eye, almost like my own I thought.’ And again, ‘she looked so delicate, yet throbbing with the magic of life and enjoying the sunbeams, and the nectar of all that was around her.’ The butterfly may also symbolise Lakshmi Persaud’s aspirations and dreams and her love of freedom and beauty. Altogether, we were exhilarated by the richness and tenderness of the novel.

This is a review of Butterfly In The Wind

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