Experience the siege of Sarajevo through the eyes of Zora, an artist and teacher who is floundering at the midpoint of her life. Published in May 2022 to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the start of the almost-four-year assault, this is my debut novel.
Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2023. Winner announced 14 June 2023.
Shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2023.
Shortlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award 2023.
Shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize 2023. Winner announced 18 October.
Indie Fiction Book of the Month, May 2022.
It reads like a straight telling of one woman’s experience and feels totally authentic… Along with human kindness, there is a quiet emphasis on the power of art: Zora’s paintings, like the existence of this book, are testimony to the way that wars come and go but art goes on for ever.The Sunday Times
This is a reflective novel about dark times that tells us life goes on, love stories develop, humanity remains in the most inhumane of times.Sunday Independent
A moving, compelling, deeply human novel about love, hope and resilience in a city under siege. Everyone should read this.Emma Stonex, Author of The Lamplighters
Brilliantly evokes a world slipping, day by day, under the surface of the opaque waters of war. Dark yet starkly beautiful, Black Butterflies is at once a testament to the victims of the Siege of Sarajevo, to the power of art and to Morris’s skills as a storyteller.Aminatta Forna, Author of The Hired Man
The best contemporary novel I have read for a long while and also chillingly resonant with the scenes unfolding in Ukraine. Black Butterflies is a book for our time.Sarah Burton, Author of The Strange Adventures of H
An astonishingly good debut, chronicling one of the darkest times in global history. Zora’s story broke my heart and I hope will open the hearts of all those who read it to refugees at a time when history is destined to repeat itself.Liz Nugent, Author of Our Little Cruelties
Beautifully written and hauntingly evocative, Black Butterflies distils into a single consciousness a nation’s violent trauma and an artist’s sense of hope. Rich and highly accomplished.Sam Byers, Author of Perfidious Albion
Black Butterflies paints a portrait of a devastating moment in history, but also of one woman’s capacity for beauty and resilience. An intensely evocative and deeply moving debut – I held my breath as I read.Ruth Gilligan, Author of The Butchers
Incredibly affecting writing, superbly researched and beautifully written. It could not be more topical.Paula McGrath, Author of A History of Running Away
An elegy to the vibrant and inclusive society that was subjected to a murderous assault in 1992. It comes at an apt time because it testifies to the ease and speed with which things can fall apart.Kevin Sullivan, Author of The Longest Winter
Black Butterflies is incredible, a must-read. There are few novels that stay with you after the final page, but this is one. Brutal yet also uplifting, immersive and real, it shows what the human spirit is capable of.Karen Angelico, Author of Everything We Are
Sarajevo, spring 1992. Each night, nationalist gangs erect barricades, splitting the diverse city into ethnic enclaves; each morning, the weary residents – whether Muslim, Croat or Serb – push the makeshift barriers aside. Threat hangs heavy in the air.
Zora, an artist and teacher, is focused on the day-to-day: her family, her students, her studio in the old town. But when violence finally spills over, she sees that she must send her husband and elderly mother to safety with her daughter in England. Reluctant to believe that hostilities will last more than a handful of weeks, she stays behind. As the city falls under siege and everything they love is laid to waste, black ashes floating over the rooftops, Zora and her friends are forced to rebuild themselves, over and over. Theirs is a breathtaking story of disintegration, resilience and hope.
Priscilla Morris is of Yugoslav and Cornish parentage. She grew up in London, spending summers in Sarajevo, and studied at Cambridge University and the University of East Anglia, where she gained her PhD in Creative Writing. She now teaches at University College Dublin, and lives between Ireland and Spain. Inspired by real-life accounts of the Siege of Sarajevo (1992–96), Black Butterflies is her debut novel.
Read the opening at newwriting.net.
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Priscilla Morris discusses art, the background of the war and what inspired her to write Black Butterflies.
Follow on Instagram @priscillamorriswriter.
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