Last week I received a surprise parcel from Macmillan. I had a suspicion as to what it might be but was completely wrong as it turned out to be a beautiful copy of Matthew Oates’ His Imperial Majesty. My first flick through showed me that it has some gorgeous illustrations but I was somewhat sceptical about the review on the front cover from Patrick Barkham – ‘Monumental, transcendent, hilarious.’ This is a natural history of the Purple Emperor butterfly and it is packed full of fascinating information. How could it possibly also be hilarious?
It turns out that it can. I am still only partway through (my Mum who doesn’t normally like reading non-fiction was so taken with this book that she borrowed it to read herself) but there are definitely some very funny moments. I particularly enjoyed the account of a meeting with a walker when the author was lying flat on his back looking for butterflies in the trees above him with binoculars.
I love butterflies. Hacking out on the ponies I often see many of them flitting about the hedgerows and although I can identify very few of them they are wonderful to watch. I even have a sketchbook from when I was eight or nine to which I gave the misleading title of Mostly Butterflies. On looking through it I find that there is precisely one butterfly – apparently a Monarch. A more accurate title would have been Mostly Horses but I was obviously very keen on butterflies at the time – even if it was a short time.
Thank you to Macmillan for the free review copy. I am looking forward to reading the rest of it when I get it back!