THE BUTTERFLY WARD by Margaret Gibson


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Six stories by a Canadian writer whose fictional perimeters here are patrolled by the frustrations of the insane. Two stories take place directly in hospital wards, where the aberrant behavior is starkest but also most muted by familiarity: The Snake Pit and its successors have made madhouse stories sadly predictable. But more interesting effects are achieved when Gibson puts her frangible characters out in the world, where misunderstanding is rife. A twelve-year-old girl's lovesickness for her older sister's boyfriend becomes obsession and then becomes pathology--and it carries on for 15 years, finally dashing any hopes she may have had for a remotely normal life. A literary and self-conscious husband tries, with initial success, to shepherd his very disturbed wife through a first pregnancy--only to finally snatch the baby, safely born, away and leave the wife to her richly-desired death. Because Gibson only works with gruesome, self-reflecting situations here, just how supple a writer she is can't easily be judged; but, though loaded by pathos, these stories invite comparison with Edna O'Brien's: the same fragility made iron. A promising glimpse of a new talent.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 1980
Publisher: Vanguard