Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Whatever happened to Madame Butterfly's son?, November 9, 2012
This review is from: The Heat of the Sun: A Novel (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Anyone who has ever marveled at Puccini's Madame Butterfly - I've seen it several times and never without shedding a tear - is left with one question at the end: what happens to the love child of Madame Butterfly and Pinkerton? He exits the stage in the arms of his birth father and stepmother to a new life in America.

David Rain cleverly mines the life of Ben Pinkerton, the young boy who becomes known as Trouble. His father has gone on to become a senator and he arrives at his private school ready to live up to that name.

The scope of the book is ambitious: from the early 1920s through Los Alamos the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, told by his lifelong orphaned and bookish friend, Woodley Sharpless. The structure is equally bold; for example, Act One: A Boy Named Trouble - or what happened at school in the twenties; Act Two: Telmachus, Stay - or days and nights with Aunt Toolie in the Village, and so on. And the prose? Colorful if a bit distancing and operatically melodramatic in places.

One might call it an everyman search for evolving identity as well as an examination of solidly friends who strive but never quite understand the internal anguish inside of each other. In some ways, it calls to mind The Vices by Lawrence Douglas, another book about an intertwining but on some levels unsatisfying friendship.

This is a book I admired more than loved. It does sag at parts -- particularly in the mid-section -- but it does herald the talent of an emerging writer.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 9, 2012 3:00:54 PM PST
Bonnie Brody says:
Jill, A good but unenthusiastic review of a subject you would have liked had it been approached differently. I'm not an opera fan so don't know the background of Madame Butterfly. I wish this book had given you more satisfaction. Bonnie

Posted on Nov 17, 2012 1:57:10 AM PST
Jill, BUTTERFLY was my mother's favorite opera, but it seldom makes me cry, and I have NEVER wondered about Trouble. Still, the idea of following the fate of a mixed-race youngster through some of the most turbulent years of the century is a fascinating one, and I am only sorry it was not executed with more finesse. Roger.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 17, 2012 4:50:26 AM PST
Roger, BUTTERFLY was the first opera I saw as a child -- 9 years old! -- and the haunting story and beautiful arias have always remained with me. I've seen it many times now, and never without tears.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2013 5:12:13 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 19, 2013 5:13:02 AM PST
Jill, December being a rather dim month on Vine, I ignored your advice and took this. My review is posted now, but it more or less matches your own. I was pleased with the early part of the book, largely because it did NOT fall into the pitfalls of opera-insider writing; it was a solid four-star effort up to the midpoint. But then it plummeted, going down to three stars and even to two, though in the end I split the difference. I also thought of THE VICES, by the way, though that was better. Roger.
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3.5 out of 5 stars (25 customer reviews)
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Jill I. Shtulman
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Location: Chicago, IL USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 236