“One of America’s most intrepid fictional frontiersmen.”



Ok, so I recently went to sign up at my local library, something that I’ve been meaning to do for a while now, but never seem to get the chance. Anyway, while I’m registering I think I may as well take out a book at the same time. I can’t think of any books I’ve been meaning to read so I take a walk around, and this book jumps up at me. Butterfly Stories, with a picture of a butterfly on the front, perfect.

I assumed a collection of short upbeat, light-hearted stories. Oh, how wrong could I be. Upon reading the forward I quickly realise that the main theme of the book is prostitution and as a gay man the idea of reading about heterosexual prostitution would be very far down my ideal reading list.

I’ve got the book for three weeks so I may as well give it a chance (I have to say that I had already decided that if it got into graphic detail it would be going straight back to the library) and actually I’m so glad I continued reading.

The story revolves around a journalist who, from a very young age is attuned to the fact that he loves women and just wants someone that loves him back. In the search for love the Journalist finds himself, (along with “the photographer”) in the centre of the prostitution crowed in South East Asia (Thailand and Cambodia).

The contrast between the two men is perfect for the story, the journalist, who wants to find love, falls for each prostitute that he hires, while the photographer regards them much more as things that he has bought for the period of time.

During the course of the book the characteristics of the two men change, but with their obsession with prostitutes being the main concern this ends up being their demise. Towards the end of the book the journalist realises that he has found his love and then the story takes on a new light. While the journalist tries to get back to the woman he loves, he must overcome obstacles in his way and has to deal with the consequences of his previous actions.

William T. Vollmann’s imaginative look into this section of society is scary, the desperation portrayed through the prostitutes need to get clients to survive is just heart wrenching.


Reviewed by:

Mathew Hooper

Added 20th November 2015

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Mathew Hooper