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The Butterfly Lampshade

UK Publisher: Hutchinson

On the night her mother is taken to a mental hospital after a psychotic episode, eight year-old Francie is staying with her babysitter. Next to the couch on which she’s sleeping, there is a lamp that catches her eye, its shade adorned with butterflies. When she wakes, Francie sees a dead butterfly floating in a glass of water. She drinks it before the babysitter can see.

Twenty years later, Francie is compelled to make sense of that moment, and two other incidents – her discovery of a desiccated beetle from a school paper, and a bouquet of dried roses from some curtains. Her recall is exact: she is sure these things were real. But despite her certainty, she wrestles with the hold these memories have over her, and with what they say about her place in the world.

Told in lush, lilting prose, The Butterfly Lampshade is a heartfelt and heart-breaking examination of the sometimes overwhelming power of the material world, and of a broken love between mother and child.


The Butterfly Lampshade is an unflinching, empathetic portrayal of a childhood touched by mental illness. As always, Aimee Bender’s respect for the child and the child within translates into wisdom and magic on the page.’ ― Jing-Jing Lee, author of How We Disappeared

‘[A] compact surrealist memory box of a novel. . . Its particular quality of stillness hums with so much mystery and intensity that the book never feels static . . . I felt considerably more altered by the experience than I often am by novels that travel much further from their beginnings . . . One finishes the novel with the eerie sense that we too are objects who have slipped accidentally into being. ― New York Times

‘a beautifully written portrayal of a girl trying to understand her mother’s mental illness’ ― Sunday Express

Aimee Bender is the author of five books: The Girl in the Flammable Skirt (1998) which was a New York...