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Findley, Timothy.

Markham (Ont.), Penguin, c1969, 1986. 374pp, paper, $8.95, ISBN 0-14-007305-1.CIP

Reviewed by Anne Locatelli

Volume 14 Number 6
1986 November

This is a revised edition, and the fourth draft, of the original novel by the same title, published in 1969. In the preface, Findley gives his reasons for rewriting the story seventeen years later: "The first edition simply wasn't good enough." He then further elaborates regarding the duty the author has to leave the book "in the best condition" of which he is capable.

Findley lives in the country, not far from his native Toronto. A brilliant and important writer, he started his artistic career as an actor, working for the Stratford Shakespearean Festival. In 1953, he moved to London, England, to attend the Central School of Speech and Drama. After travelling extensively abroad, Findley returned to Canada where he became involved with radio, television, and threatre productions. In 1962, he turned to writing as a full-time career. In collaboration with William Whitehead, he has written many television scripts, including the award-winning television series "The National Dream," in 1974.

His exposure as a young boy to heartrending reports of Second World War events left an indelible mark on his sensitive nature. Findley's conception of a civilization gone mad hauntingly emerges in each one of his stories, often reaching nightmarish proportions. His most successful novel to date has been The Wars, (Irwin, 1977) which won him a Governor General's Award. Already translated into nine languages, the book was used in 1982 as the basis for a film directed by Robin Phillips.

The Butterfly Plague is a powerful story about Hollywood, its people, and the way they live. At the same time, it is an intimate study of human emotions, ambitions, and feelings. The influence of filmmaking and the techniques of camera work strongly pervade the structure of this novel in which the action shifts easily from reality to nightmare, often bordering on madness, with the naturalness of a Fellini movie. The Nazi dream of racial perfection is woven into the story, together with power, hereditary illness, despair, and the inevitability of death, all of which play important parts. The action, which takes place in the Hollywood of the late thirties and is presented in a series of chronicles, parallels the politcal developments in Europe in the years immediately preceding the Second World War. The psychological torture of the characters is enhanced by haunting descriptions of tremendous Californian canyon fires and by an unusually overwhelming invasion of monarch butterflies. Rich in symbolism and depth, this story is not one to be read lightly; it is rather to be savoured and appreciated for its maturity and insight. This re-written edition of the novel has lost much of its original heaviness. Attractively presented, it is a welcome new version of which Findley must be proud. Recommended for adult readers and for particularly mature high school students.

Anne Locatelli, Elliot Lake S.S., Elliot Lake, Ont.
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