The Flitting

Ben Masters


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Granta Books
4 July 2024
ISBN: 9781783789719
384 pages

From the publisher

A richly layered, nuanced and deeply moving memoir about how butterflies become the vital connection between a son and his dying father.

When Ben Masters' father, a dedicated naturalist, is confined to the house with inoperable cancer, he is unable to follow the butterfly season for the first time since his childhood. His son must become his connection to the outdoors, reporting back on his beloved Purple Emperors, Lulworth Skippers, Wood Whites and Silver-studded Blues. The problem is, his son knows practically nothing about the natural world. Blending natural history, pop culture, and literary biography, this unforgettable memoir charts a terminal summer when butterflies become a way for father and son to talk about masculinity, memory, identity, generational differences, and, ultimately, loss and continuation.

The Flitting takes readers on an unlikely journey, flitting between the lives and works of Vladimir Nabokov and other literary lepidopterists; the artistic metamorphoses of Prince and Joni Mitchell; butterflies and gender in Virginia Woolf, Angela Carter and The Sopranos; the voices of John Clare and Luther Vandross. These diverse subjects come together in an intensely authentic portrait of a father and son sharing passions, lessons and regrets as they run out of time.