Book Review: Papillion by Henri Charrière

papillionHenri Charrière, called “Papillon,” for the butterfly tattoo on his chest, was convicted in Paris in 1931 of a murder he did not commit. Sentenced to life imprisonment in the penal colony of French Guiana, he became obsessed with one goal: “escape.” After planning and executing a series of treacherous yet failed attempts over many years, he was eventually sent to the notorious prison, Devil’s Island, a place from which no one had ever escaped . . . until Papillon. His flight to freedom remains one of the most incredible feats of human cunning, will, and endurance ever undertaken.

A difficult book to read and I would have abandoned it had it not been that month’s choice for a book club I belonged to.  I know that some people enjoyed it and some have even found it inspirational – I found it boring and tedious. And I dont care if Steve McQueen was in the movie, that didnt make me hate it any less.

In principal, it should be a great book: Man imprisoned for a crime he didnt commit, escapes from one penal colony, has a great time on an island pretending to be something he’s not, gets captured again, incarcerated again, years of solitary confinement, the rations and abuse that prisoners get, to be let go as an old man, long after his original sentence has finished.

Oh but such tedious writing! The boredom! Page after page of this drivel! Again I dont know whether this is down to the original writer or the translator (quite a few of the books I’ve had trouble finishing have been written in another language first).


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