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The Butterfly Cabinet

The Butterfly Cabinet

A Novel

  • reading group guide
When former nanny Maddie McGlade receives a letter from the last of her charges, she realizes the time has come to unburden herself of a secret she has kept for more than seventy years: the truth behind the death of Charlotte Ormond, the four-year-old daughter of the wealthy household where Maddie was employed as a young woman. Based on chilling events that actually took place in the north of Ireland in 1892, The Butterfly Cabinet is a sterling example of dark, emotionally complex fiction.
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  • Free Press | 
  • 256 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451611601 | 
  • May 2012
List Price $16.00


The Confession of Maddie McGlade

A haunting, unforgettable story—based on real events in late 19th-century Ireland—of two women linked by a tragic, 70-year secret: what really happened on the last day in the life of the 4-year-old daughter of an aristocratic family.

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Read an Excerpt

Maddie McGlade

Anna. You’re the spit of your mother standing there—Florence, God rest her—and you have the light of her sharp wit in your eyes. Give me your hand till I see you better. There’s not much change on you, apart from what we both know. Ah, you needn’t look at me like that. Sure, why else would you be here? I know by the face of you there’s a baby on the way, even if you’re not showing. It’s an odd thing, isn’t it, the way the past has no interest for the young till it comes... see more


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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Butterfly Cabinet includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Bernie McGill. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the


When Maddie McGlade, a former nanny now in her nineties, receives a letter from the last of her charges, she realizes that the time has come to unburden herself of a secret she has kept for decades: What really happened on the last day in the life of Charlotte Ormond, the four-year-old only daughter of the big house where Maddie was employed in her youth? The Butterfly Cabinet unfolds in chapters that alternate between Maddie’s story—as told to Anna, Charlotte’s would-be great-niece—and the prison diaries of Charlotte’s mother, Harriet, who was held responsible for her daughter’s death.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. How did you feel about the dual-narrator structure of the book? Did you want to hear more from Anna? Were there any other characters whose narration you would have liked to read as well?

2. What parts of the book took you most by surprise? What were your favorite moments?

3. Who do you think was the most conflicted chara see more

About the Author



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