Perfume River by Robert Olen Butler

Real Readers: Perfume River by Robert Olen Butler

Article published on October 27, 2016.

Robert Quinlan is a seventy-year-old historian, teaching at Florida State University, where his wife Darla is also tenured. Their marriage, forged in the fervor of anti-Vietnam-war protests, now bears the fractures of time, both personal and historical, with the couple trapped in an existence of morning coffee and solitary jogging and separate offices. For Robert and Darla, the cracks remain under the surface, whereas the divisions in Robert s own family are more apparent: he has almost no relationship with his brother Jimmy, who became estranged from the family as the Vietnam War intensified. Robert and Jimmy s father, a veteran of WWII, is coming to the end of his life, and aftershocks of war ripple across their lives once again, when Jimmy refuses to appear at his father s bedside. And an unstable homeless man whom Robert at first takes to be a fellow Vietnam veteran turns out to have a deep impact not just on Robert, but on his entire family.


‘This is a simply but beautifully written book, which I found to be a real page-turner.
Angela Stephens

‘I expect this literary novel to stay with me for a long time.’
Paul Burke

‘What I liked most about this book was the curiosity it has piqued in me to find out more about a period of history I know almost nothing of.’
Katie McLean

‘Even though this is a short book, and some may say read quickly and easily, it is not an easy read as it is thought-provoking, challenging.’
Paul Diggett

‘I found myself thinking about it long after I’d finished reading it.’
Sue Glynn


Find out what our selected Real Readers had to say about Perfume River by Robert Olen Butler in full by downloading the PDF here.



Perfume River by Robert Olen Butler, published on 27 October, 2016 by No Exit Press, in paperback


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