A lovely review just in of The Butterfly Heart courtesy of the crew at Gobblefunked (great name!) in Australia.  Have put the review in below but you can find it on their website at gobblefunked. Go and take a look, lots of reviews!


Zambia is the butterfly in the heart of Africa, and like a butterfly it is beautiful but fragile.

Within reading the first few pages of Paula Leyden’s debut novel The Butterfly Heart (2011), it is not difficult to imagine you are sitting beneath a baobab tree on a warm Zambian evening. Leyden effortlessly describes the sights, sounds and smells of Zambia and contrasts their beauty against the phenomenon of child brides.

Bul-Boo and her twin sister Madillo could not be any more different if they tried. They squabble about anything and everything, sometimes not talking for days. But when their school friend Winifred becomes withdrawn and unlike her usual bubbly self in class, they unite to get to the bottom of it. It seems young Winifred has a dark secret. One that will change her life forever. She is to be married off to her cruel uncle’s friend. A man old enough to be her grandfather and thirsty enough to drink all the beer in town. Time is running out and it is up to Bul-Boo, Madillo and their neighbour, Fred, to save their friend before she loses her childhood, innocence and future.

After much contemplation, the school friends decide to ask the local snake man, Ifwafwa, for help. A mysterious old storyteller, Ifwafwa is a very wise man who knows evil and how it can quickly erode a young person’s life. He is very fond of Winifred and knows that he must act to save her from the forced marriage awaiting her. He sees the sadness and pain in her mother’s eyes, a woman who is a shadow of her former self after the death of her husband and the violence she endures daily. He wants to help give her and young Winifred a voice. Bul-Boo knows of Ifwafwa’s power but also of the sluggish nature of his decision making. Impatient as ever, she is getting restless but she must learn to trust in a higher power and in the wise old man.

Ifwafwa. Yes, that’s what they call me. The Puff Adder. Slow and heavy, but fast to strike.

Winner of the 2012 Eilis Dillion Award, this book is a wonderful introduction to Zambian culture and human rights issues. Leyden was born in Kenya and spent her childhood in Zambia, something which is evident in her lyrical writing and vivid imagery. She is respectful of the traditions of this beautiful country but is well aware of the many problems facing it today and the effect these problems will have on future generations. Steeped in history and witchcraft, this book is a wonderful debut novel and leaves readers wanting more. Thankfully, Leyden’s second book, The Sleeping Baobab Tree was released in May 2013 and it revisits the school friends on their next adventure.

One response to “Gobblefunked

  1. This is simply marvelous. It says so much about the author, the setting and the content of the book. I haven’t seen a review of this quality in many years! Any other comment would be a distracton.

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