Best holiday read – Papillon

I tend to read alot on holiday, as I don’t get the chance any other time. I like books with good stories and suspense. This year I downloaded Papillon onto my Kindle and loved it.


For those of you who don’t know it was written by Henri Charrière in 1969, an autobiography that covers the period 1931 – 1945 in his life. It was also dramatised into a Hollywood film in 1973 starring the great Steve McQueen. It the story of a man who was one of the few people to successfully escape from the notorious French penal colony of Devil’s Island.

Charriere becomes incarcerated, for murdering a pimp and becomes known as “Papillon,” or “butterfly,” because of a prominent tattoo. He maintains throughout that he is innocent and plots his way out of Devil’s Island.

The brutality of life at the penal colony is clear, along with the inhuman treatment – including long periods of solitary confinement, that he encounters. But his strength of will sees him through several escape attempts and ultimate freedom. He also finds the best in people, particularly his inmates and people he meets along the way.

Was it all true – maybe not. Some portions the story are disputed and several of Charriere’s fellow inmates have claimed over the years that he incorporated the experiences of other would-be escapees and presented them as his own story. But who cares, a great writer borrows wherever he can.

To me it’s a Boys Own adventure story. It’s gripping and the pace never fades – a real page turner. It’s my (current) favourite and a great book for your next holiday maybe….