Review – The True Story of Butterfish

Title:  The True Story of Butterfish

Author: Nick Earls

Golda’s pick 

When Annaliese Winter walks down Curtis Holland’s front path, he’s ill-prepared for a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl who’s a confounding mixture of adult and child. After years travelling the world with his band, Butterfish, he’s not used to having a neighbour at all.So when Curtis receives an invitation to dinner from Annaliese’s mother, Kate, he is surprised when he not only accepts but finds himself being drawn to this remarkably unremarkable family. Even to fifteen-year-old Mark who is at war with his own surging adolescence.Curtis soon realises that with Kate divorced,

Annaliese and Mark need a male role model in their lives, but it’s hard for him to help when he’s just starting to grow up himself and harder still when Annaliese begins to show an interest in him that is less than filial.Filled with acute observation, humour and tenderness, Butterfish is Nick Earls at his very best. 

(Synopsis from

This book appears on the ‘50 Books You Can’t Put Down’ list and I must admit I had high expectations for the novel; unfortunately I was a bit disappointed. The plot is highly character driven and is centred around the internal struggle of Curtis as he comes to terms with his fall from fame and his relationship with those around him as he re-enters the ‘real world’. The only issue with this is there is nothing very remarkable about Curtis or his life now that he is no longer famous and while this may be the point of the book it doesn’t make for particularly interesting reading.

The narrative is painstakingly slow with very little development. The characters that surround Curtis offer some interesting opportunities to stir up some life in Curtis’ seemingly humdrum existence but for some reason Earls chooses to have Curtis take the higher ground and neatly resolves any events that could offer some real character and plot development with very little fuss or drama. Curtis is a character that feels ineffectual and is struggling to understand what it is to be a man in the world and here Earl raised some interesting questions about masculinity and society.

However I feel like nor Curtis or Earls really find a resolution to this question and since there is no major development or realisation, the ending of the novel comes off feeling a little impotent. An interesting side note about the book though is it was written as both a book and a play by Earls and productions have apparently begun in Brisbane where the book was set. Perhaps it will make for better theatre?