The Butterfly Enigma
It is very interesting how two people can read the same book so differently – a good reason to have an open mind and check out books which might not necessarily be in your favoured genre – as long as the reviews are positive. I read an online review that stated that this book is about love and romance – not my view at all!
I read this book as a powerful narrative about a strong women embracing the beginning of the feminist movement in Melbourne in the 1960’s – a woman who wanted to and did make decisions for herself, a woman who was comfortable in her own skin, a woman striving to be self-reliant, a positive woman and overall a very determined and pragmatic woman; I could not believe the choices she made in Rio. (No spoilers here).
This narrative of feminism, Melbourne in the 1960’s and one woman’s strength is but one element of this multi-dimensional story. We hear the personal stories of war time 1940’s from the viewpoints of Lena’s mother as she struggles to protect her child firstly in Latvia and later in Paris as the ethnocentric war against Jewish people begins, from the captain who provided safe passage to those escaping Latvia on his ship, from Lena’s auntie in Paris and the historical accounts of war via the records of the newspapers and courts of the time, the Berlin Document Centre, trials of war criminals and other such resources. I dare you not to be moved but these accounts.
The stories and voices here overlap and intertwine offering the reader a rich and vibrant narrative. I loved every word on every page; such an exquisite and engaging narrative. Love story? That is not how I read this book; a multifaceted story of feminism, war crimes, retribution, courage and strength and complex relationships. Yes there are relationships in this novel – what novel concerning people wouldn’t be complete without the interactions between characters? Maybe the word lovers as opposed to love story is more fitting here? You be the judge.
Reading Writing and Riesling
The Butterfly Enigma, by Lorraine Campbell, primarily takes place in Australia during the late 1960s. Lena Marceau has just finished a messy divorce, and is on her own for the first time in three years. Although she has family in the area Lena is determined to make it on her own and by chance she hears about court reporters and decides to give the career a try. It turns out that Lena loves being a court reporter, and she happens to be very good at it as well. Lena falls into the courthouse rhythm until one day she hears a voice from her past, a voice that summons up mind-numbing terror from a childhood she has suppressed. Lena searches for evidence that her hunch is more than a hunch, and that the seemingly high society Judge is actually something much worse; something that has ties to her forgotten childhood and the darker atrocities of World War II.
The Butterfly Enigma is a stand alone novel, although it does take place in the same universe as Lorraine Campbell’s Resisting the Enemy series, with several characters making cameo appearances and brief mentions of events that took place in the earlier books. The book is a beautiful example of historical fiction that tackles several difficult topics including Nazi war crimes, infidelity, and the ongoing struggle of feminism in what is largely a man’s world. The book spends some time focusing on the day-to-day life of a court reporter, which is brought to life brilliantly and is never once dull or boring. This is also a somewhat unusual story as it leaves things slightly open ended, with the character studying her options for her future – this doesn’t necessarily weaken the ending, it instead reflects the realities of life, although some readers may be longing for everything to be tied off with a pretty bow.
Lena is a complicated character, having survived a dark personal tragedy during WWII as well as managing to survive completely alone for a time as a child in Nazi occupied France, she has clearly developed into a strong woman. Her recent divorce from her husband didn’t destroy her; it instead made her become more self-reliant. Following this, she approaches men looking for a partner instead of a husband in the traditional sense. Some readers may find her liaison with Nordstrom a bit morally ambiguous, particularly with regards to her relationship with Harry. However, this isn’t something that is particularly unheard of, it’s just different in that we usually hear of such affairs being perpetrated by men. All said, Lena is very much her own woman, and while she may enjoy the company of a man, she doesn’t need one.
Another segment of the book that touches on a morally ambiguous topic is that of revenge. While Lena has a right to her anger, as do many others that were victims of Nazi war criminals, the lengths that she goes through to achieve her vengeance – under the banner of justice – is worth discussing. Were Lena and her friends justified? Does what they did actually count as justice? This is a difficult topic, and is a relevant discussion as this is something that appears throughout history time and time again.
Thought provoking, poignant, and bold, The Butterfly Enigma is a complicated story that beautifully reflects the messiness of everyday life. It is a story that touches on potentially painful and difficult topics, and lets the reader view things through the bold and damaged eyes of Lena Marceau – a character that proves there are many different ways of fighting back.
Portland Book Review – 4.5 stars
Lorraine Campbell’s The Butterfly Enigma is an exhilarating novel about a woman’s determination to find the truth about her childhood and her unrelenting search for justice. Lena Marceau has always wondered what her parents were like. She hardly remembers her father’s death and escaping Latvia with her mother following the Nazi invasion. Shortly thereafter, Lena was found wandering the streets in Paris, lost and alone. Twenty-five years later, Lena’s failed marriage has sent her in search of a fulfilling career that will pay the bills. After studying and mastering high-speed shorthand, Lena begins working for the Melbourne Law Courts. While in court, she meets Judge Ferik whose voice completely terrifies her; though she cannot place him, Lena believes she has met Ferik before. When Lena sees Ferik’s wife at a party wearing a pair of butterfly earrings identical to the ones her mother wore, she is convinced that she and Ferik share an unpleasant history. While her mysterious past unfolds, Lena is whisked up in a scandalous affair and helps uncover the secrets of a serial killer. Thrilling, heartbreaking, and even sensuous, The Butterfly Enigma will appeal to a wide range of readers as Campbell’s prose has something to offer everyone.
Within the first chapter, Campbell immediately invites readers into a gripping narrative; from the start her words are electrifying, and the action she paints is absolutely harrowing. The stakes are obviously high, and it is impossible to not get swept into the emotional drama of Lena’s escape from Latvia…
As a whole, Campbell’s novel is engaging as her character’s narratives weave and intersect with each other and as their most sought-after answers are unveiled. Once the complex plot gets moving, the novel is a page-turner through the end. The opening chapters, alone, show just how beautiful Campbell’s writing is. But perhaps the most powerful aspect of The Butterfly Enigma lies in the tough question it poses about what is morally justifiable, which continues to loom long after finishing the novel.
San Francisco Book Review – 4 stars
The Butterfly Enigma is written by Lorraine Campbell, who seems to share quite a few qualities with her leading lady Lena.
I found myself well and truly engaged with this novel from early on. Historical novels aren’t something I have always loved but during my time with Beauty and Lace I have started reading them and really enjoy the look at time periods I’m not familiar with, especially Australian ones.
The Butterfly Enigma is set in Melbourne, 1966 but it starts in a war torn Latvia, 1941 with a woman and child fleeing for their lives and boarding a boat hoping for a new life somewhere safer.
Beauty and Lace
Of all the reviews I’ve received for “The Butterfly Enigma”, this is one I shall treasure. It’s from Marcelle Fitoussi, my friend Lydia’s French cousin.
From Paris, she writes:
“After a very busy period this spring and beginning summer, I am glad to be on holidays for a month. And holidays mean you’re quiet and have time to read! I spent last week with amazing book! I couldn’t even let it, during my first week of holidays, outside, in restaurants, in cafés. I went to Normandy to the Impressionism painting festival… a whole week with Lena and Jacques and Valli and all those amazing details of Melbourne Court and justice system, all the places I could see where it was… That is my general impression! A book that really fills you, that you cannot let until the last page…
I felt this book much more personal, you seemed to have put a lot of your own “vécu” as we say in french, you have obviously been working very hard, because each detail, place or character seems real and natural as if we met again old friends after your two first books. Previously, I went back to the previous books to be sure I was familiar again with the previous part of the story and it was amazing to find again the exact story following in this book (the way Lena and Jacques were found and saved by Marguerite).
I loved the development of the story, the personality of Lena strong, decided, never disturbed of the objective she had, all the french references so “well à propos” and the study of the human being in general. I particularly enjoyed the mixed stories: Hunt for nazi criminals, love attractions in diverse senses among all characters. The Butterfly Enigma is a thriller with the big History as a background and all personal and private stories among. It was very interesting to learn about all those details of Barristers, supreme court, judges and the profession of court reporter, even if I had a few difficulties only at the beginning with all the english terms of that field. But then I had made a small dictionary of the main terminology so it was easier!
Nothing has been left to hazard. I’ve seen all the readings you made and obviously an incredible number of other researches, we do see through the novel. Really congratulations, you know that now you have an overseas fan crazy about your books! Thank you again for this amazing book, I already look forward for the next one and wish you could be translated into French.”
Resisting the Enemy – Book 1
Lorraine Campbell’s Resisting the Enemy is the coming of age tale of a young woman in France during World War II. Valentine de Vaillant, or Valli to her friends, is an intelligent and somewhat headstrong young woman. When the Germans roll into her beloved country she chooses to fight back by joining a resistance group, helping to smuggle papers and people in and out of France. However, once a German officer is billeted in her own home things become tricky, particularly since Valli finds him somewhat charming despite her hatred for everything he stands for. As the German Wehrmacht ratchets up its persecution against Jews the stakes become deadly. Valli learns of a traitor within the resistance and desperately races to warn her friends before it is too late.
A beautifully written historical piece, Resisting the Enemy offers a different perspective to this tumultuous time period. While the characters in the book remain on the fringes of the violence of the war, Lorraine Campbell captures the overwhelming bleakness of occupied France as they wait in line for hours for food, and struggle under the increasing oppression of the Nazi regime. The first half of the book has a different tone, as it discusses Valli’s childhood, which can feel a bit out of place with the second half of the novel. In fact, the book may have benefited from being broken up into two parts. However, the first half of the book does introduce several key events that help shape Valli into the young woman she grows up to be.
Resisting the Enemy is a great book for readers looking for a solid historical fiction with adventure and a touch of romance. Be prepared for a bit of a cliffhanger, as this is not the complete tale of Valli; her adventures will continue in Resisting the Enemy: Mortal Danger.
Portland Book Review – 4.5 stars
Resisting the Enemy follows the story of Valentine de Vaillant, a young woman living in Paris during the 1940s and in the midst of German occupation. She is born to privilege, being the daughter of a sought-after architect, Charles de Vaillant, and a famous opera singer, Virginia Donaldson. Nonetheless, the time spent with her aunt and uncle in Australia shapes Valli to be a rather athletic young woman who enjoys testing the limits of her endurance as a runner, and who allows herself to wonder about her own singing abilities, without the constant jealous shadow of her mother. As her trainer Lazlo teaches her, “More races are won in the mind than in the legs. You must want it more than anything in the world.” After her time in Australia, Valli returns to her home in Paris, where she befriends Margie, a Russian Jewish girl.
Unfortunately, trouble soon finds the Vaillant family, and the tragic deaths of her loved ones force Valli to move to Lyon to live with her grandmother. Yet, this move merely serves as a catalyst for her rebellious nature to emerge. Valli joins the Resistance, and is then able to wreak her own subversive vengeance against the Germans who have taken over her beloved homeland: those who have turned “the vibrant City of Light [into] a ghost town.”
From the start, Campbell introduces Valli as a young woman with a mission. Her character is outspoken, defiant, and quite a liberated soul – she is aware of the dangers her role within the Resistance may hold for her, but she is still willing to take these risks for the sake of those entrusted to her care. With an air of nonchalance, and clear exploitation of her womanly wiles, Valli tries her best to manipulate anyone standing in her way. She meets her match on various occasions, making the reader wonder, who exactly is the enemy, and who is doing the resisting? With beautiful descriptions of Parisian life, nighttime operas, and clandestine missions, Campbell transports her readers to a treacherous and bygone era, which we witness through the attentive emerald eyes of her redheaded heroine.
SanFrancisco Book Review – 4 stars
Valli, an intelligent and multi-talented young woman, has lost her brother in a road accident and her parents in a bomb blast in London. The Germans have invaded France and she is living with her grandmother in her villa. She has secretly joined a Resistance group, passionate about helping her country in any way she can.
When a young German officer is billeted at their home, she has much to fear. If she is discovered the by the Gestapo her life will be forfeited.
But there is a traitor in their ranks. Valli will do whatever it takes to discover who it is. Can she make it in time to stop her best friend from walking into a trap set by the Gestapo?
This is Lorraine Campbell’s first YA historical novel and what a good job she’s done with it. With themes of friendship and sacrifice, espionage and deceit, I became totally immersed. As the novel progressed past the back story, it increased in pace so there was no way I was putting it down. A storyline full of danger and mystery, challenges and romance, this exciting adventure is set just before and during WW2. It moves between Australia and France, with something new taking place all the time. Underlying currents of other happenings add to the tension that’s always present in Valli’s life. Discussions between the characters about classical music and opera, and the classics, are scintillating. It is a well researched and riveting read, and the first of a two-book series for the 16 + age group.
Valli de Vaillant is an Australian school girl thrust into living in pre-war France. Then as a young woman, German occupation rears its ugly head. Complications set in as she becomes attracted to a German soldier whilst actively involved in the French resistance.
This story of occupation, love, conflict and resistance even has time for the arts (opera) as Valli explores friendships and the values of freedom. Her fight to resist oppression at any cost is the driving force behind this well written novel.
As a rule I do not read books about war but this is the exception to that rule. Four out of five stars for me and highly recommended.
Online Content Manager | Australian Scholarships Group
The story of Valentine de Vaillant (Valli), extends from Australia to pre-war France, through the German Blitzkrieg and the long dark years of the German occupation of France.
As part of the French Resistance in Lyon, Valli takes part in dangerous missions that could have lead to arrest by the dreaded Gestapo.
It’s a story of Valli’s awakening passions, family conflict with her diva opera mother, physical attraction to a German officer and keeping true to her beliefs as her world is thrown into turmoil.
This is a great tale that captivates, thrills and perpetuates reader interest from the first to the very last sentence.
Get Ahead Kids Magazine
“Resisting the Enemy” is an amazing book. I loved the story and the style of writing. I learned a lot about World War 2 and the French Resistance. I would definitely recommend this book to my friends and the school librarian.
I can’t wait for the sequel, “In Mortal Danger”
Hannah Christie, aged 13.
In Mortal Danger – Book 2
Continuing the riveting historical fiction tale that began in Resisting the Enemy, the sequel, In Mortal Danger, has readers once again following the dangerous escapades of young Valentine de Vaillant in German occupied France during World War II. As the war drags on the Nazis begin cracking down on the French resistance, setting up unpredictable checkpoints, unscheduled raids, and paying particularly close attention to even the most innocent looking young women. Despite her best attempts to cover them up as business trips related to her job at a bookstore, Valli’s fairly frequent outings have been noticed by the German officer living in her Grandmother’s Villa. Colonel Maximilian von Stahlmann is fairly certain that Valli’s outings are resistance in nature, but hasn’t yet decided what to do with this knowledge. When Valli’s best friend Marguerite is discovered as being a Jew that failed to register she must make a desperate gamble to smuggle Marguerite and her two adopted children out of the country. However, the Gestapo is closing in, and the Colonel may be their only hope.
In Mortal Danger is nearly impossible to put down once started. Valli is an incredibly engaging character, being well read and incredibly intelligent. This leads to some very thought provoking discussions between Valli and Maximilian, who despite being on opposite sides of the war enjoy having someone to discuss things – from their favorite composers and books, to philosophical debates on human nature. Despite multiple reminders from both parties that they are in fact enemies, the chemistry between the two is palpable and the seeds of romance that were reluctantly sown in Resisting the Enemy begin to grow in earnest. The rest of the cast, while not being as central to the narrative are developed and fully fleshed out, making even the smallest bit-player memorable.
The story itself is equal parts spy thriller and romance novel, and is surprisingly well balanced. The book manages to weave deftly between these two sides of the story at a measured pace, which ensures that the plot is never too fast, nor too cumbersome. Where Resisting the Enemy was told entirely from Valli’s perspective, In Mortal Danger allows the reader to see things from Maximilian’s point of view as well. This adds a whole new level to the story as suddenly a German officer is given a personality rather than just being a cog in the war machine. Maximilian is just as human a character as Valli, and despite his loyalty to the German nation as a whole – a sense of national pride that every person feels for their country to one degree or another – he recoiled from the atrocities being committed by the SS after his discovery while deployed in Russia. Maximilian’s character adds a whole new dynamic that is not often seen in Young Adult (and even New Adult) literature, particularly when Nazis are such an easy target when writers need a convenient villain. What makes In Mortal Danger so special in this aspect is that Maximilian is just one of several German characters in the book that are shown to have that aspect of humanity that makes them break the mold of “German = Bad Guy” trope so common to World War II themed novels. Lorraine Campbell even reminds readers that it wasn’t just the Nazis that did terrible things in the war by showing multiple French characters that acted as informants and snitches, right down to the French soldiers who showed no mercy to the corralled Jews, even going so far as to enjoy their suffering and abuse.
In Mortal Danger is an absolutely wonderful book, and a great ending to the story begun in Resisting the Enemy. Where Resisting the Enemy was a solid Young Adult title, In Mortal Danger is for slightly more mature readers and belongs more solidly in the New Adult category. The book is sure to be loved and devoured by historical fiction fans. Lorraine Campbell managed to create a beautifully complex novel, as complicated as the human psyche discussed in fleeting moments by Valli and Maximilian. A World War II novel that discusses everything from music, literature, romance, intrigue, war, and the complexities of human choice and decision making, In Mortal Danger is a worthy addition to any reader’s collection.
Portland Book Review – 5 stars
(5 / 5 stars)
Valentine de Vaillant—known as Valli to her friends and a variety of code names to other members of the Resistance—lives with her grandmother in German-occupied France. She risks her life and safety on a frequent basis to carry out missions for the Resistance, whether transporting illicit goods or helping people escape the country. Even at home, she’s not entirely safe, as there is a German officer currently living under their roof. Maximilian von Stahlmann is a unique kind of soldier: he takes his oath of obedience to his country seriously, but does not follow orders blindly, and his men respect him deeply. Von Stahlmann suspects Valli is in the Resistance, but is not really sure he holds it against her. As the war drags on, the two are unable to deny their attraction to one another. When Valli’s best friend, Marguerite, is arrested, Valli will do anything to get her out, because no price is too high.
In Mortal Danger is the sequel to Lorraine Campbell’s book Resisting the Enemy, but it’s not necessary to have read the first book to understand and enjoy the second. With In Mortal Danger, Campbell presents a fascinating glimpse into France during the Occupation, touching on ideas like food rations and the black market and even giving readers a painfully descriptive look into French-run prison camps. Valli is fiery and independent, and readers will enjoy seeing her dive headfirst into Resistance missions, navigate the realities of life during the war, and fight her strong attraction to von Stahlmann. Von Stahlmann, meanwhile, is incredibly likeable despite being “the enemy.” His courage, integrity, and willingness to stand up for what’s right will make readers want Valli to just give in already and admit she’s in love! This book is fascinating and wonderfully well-written.
San Francisco Book Review – 5 stars
In Mortal Danger, the sequel to the outstanding Resisting the Enemy turns the focus from Valli and her dangerous Resistance activities, to the other main character of the story, the attractive, aloof Colonel Maximilian Von Stahlmann, billeted in Valli’s grandmother’s villa. We learn about his life as a soldier and the battles he has taken part in, what he has seen, and how it has influenced his beliefs and actions. The kind of man he has become inside due to his experiences isn’t the stiff, robotic Colonel others see him as. Although he is a German soldier under orders, he has principles he lives by, a mind of his own, honour, and the courage of his convictions.
Valli is finding it hard to fight the attraction she feels towards Von Stahlmann, who in turn, can no longer contain his feelings toward her. She is filled with self-loathing at her longing for the enemy. Nevertheless, their passion is ignited. Valli is destroyed when she learns he is married. Now her hatred toward him is justified and absolute.
When her best friend Margie, a French Jew, is betrayed and arrested, and ordered to the internment camp, Valli goes to extraordinary measures to secure her release. But there are others in mortal danger, not just Margie. The two children she saved from the streets are also at risk. Will a conflict of interests handicap Valli’s plea for help from Von Stahlmann, or will he stay true to his real self? Furthermore, does love have a place in a world full of turmoil and death?
A fantastic conclusion to an excellent two-book series set in the turbulent years of WW2 for the 16+ age group. As with the first book, there is mystery, suspense, adventure, love and passion, and a riveting story that moves between Australia and France.
Resisting the Enemy – 1st Edition
The occupation of conquered countries by the Nazis has been a rich source of drama for writers of fiction and film. Nowhere has this been better explored than in France, where a Collaborationist government was set up at Vichy and German soldiers were billeted on French families. In this first novel by Lorraine Campbell the reader is taken up new paths in a gripping conflict, inner and external, between Resistance fighter Valentine de Vaillant (Valli) and the German officer who has been installed in her grandmother’s home in Lyon.
The action never flags as the author takes us with unfailing accuracy through the streets of Paris and Lyon, with visits to some exquisite restaurants and nights at the opera, interspersed with Valli’s passion for running – a legacy from her two-year stay in Melbourne with her Australian relatives. Maximilian, the German officer, is a gentleman, more like Werner von Ebrennac in Le silence de la mer than the Nazi thugs who were more likely to be found in the Gestapo. Resisting him is as difficult a task as fighting the invader – especially in the shared love of the officer’s dog, a Hungarian Vizsla that accompanies Valli on her runs.
In her depiction of character, in her handling of the detail of life at that time and its complicated politics, Lorraine Campbell never takes the reader’s attention away from the resolution (or otherwise) of the erotic tension at the centre of this enthralling novel.
This is a book just asking to be made into a film: it has sex, scenery and serious social issues wound around a thrilling story of love in an unwanted time and place.
Dr Bill Murray
La Trobe University, Reader in French History
Lorraine, your fabulous book certainly didn’t disappoint me. It was absolutely enthralling.
My head was buried in Resisting the Enemy all through Turkey, to the extent that my fellow passengers kept nudging me and saying, “Why do you want to read all the time, you’re missing the beautiful scenery.”
Lorraine, you really kept me company when I was feeling travel weary and homesick.
I deeply appreciated and enjoyed your most accurate intelligent masterly book. It resonated on many levels bringing back evocative memories of Melbourne, France and Paris. An absolute beautifully conceptualized and written gem!
Dr Allan Skertchly
The French-Australian daughter of an itinerant opera singer and an architect, Valentine de Vaillant grows up with relatives in middle-class Melbourne, but by the start of World War II she is studying in Paris. She moves to Lyon to live with her grandmother and is drawn into Resistance work. A German officer is billeted in their villa, and despite her hatred of the occupiers, she is drawn to this liberal and music-loving man. A cross between a thriller and a love story, Resisting the Enemy is well researched and convincing in its depiction of Occupied France.
Saturday Herald Sun
I have read your book with great enthusiasm as I live in Melbourne and am originally from Lyon. I was wondering if this book had already been translated into French as I would love to share it with my family in France. Thanks, and great work! Can’t wait to read your next book.
I am a 19 year old university student from Sydney. I just had to write to you to congratulate you on such an elegant novel! Resisting the Enemy was such a brilliantly written piece of art that I found myself utterly captivated in.
Definitely film worthy material. A script adapted from such a novel would just be outstanding! (Whilst I may be studying political science, my passions are deep within the arts – theatre, performance and film in particular). I don’t know if you would have the intention of attempting to translate your novel into film, but I am certain that sooner or later someone will, and with good reason! Good luck with any future novels should you wish to go down that path. I look forward to reading them!