Let us first share the beauty and mystery of this most delicately titled novel, ‘Leik-p’ya’, for it is here that our story begins. The Burmese word ‘Leik-p’ya’ is a homonym; it is the word for the beautifully-winged insect; it also means the soul. And since a majority of the people of Burma believe in reincarnation, or rebirth of the soul, the delicately titled ‘Leik-p’ya’ refers to the souls of those whose stories are immortalised in this book.
Leik-p’ya! Immortal Butterflies is a work of biographical fiction. Spanning the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it is set in the Southeast Asian nation of Burma (Myanmar), a country whose independence from British rule was set in 1948. Leik-p’ya casts a rich, historic light on a nation and period long shrouded in mystery. Told through the experiences of a family whose lives span multiple generations, this epic drama bridges the exoticism of Burma's natives with the British rulers who sought to colonize it.
With a belief in reincarnation a guiding principle, we follow Mair, a prosperous landowner and paddy farmer, and her husband Hpoo, a compassionate herbalist-healer of strong Buddhist values. Together, they weather life, love, loss, betrayal, war and scandal with compassion and stoicism, while their children grow to take on challenges and adventure of their own.
Facing difficulties, yet rising unbowed, again and again from the ashes, their story is, indeed, one of the Leik-p’ya! Immortal Butterflies. Lifting the veil of Burma’s dark past, this debut novel captures a rich majesty of a colonial time long since past, allowing readers to delight in the mystifying customs of its peoples for generations anew. Leik-p'ya! Immortal Butterflies was released in paperback on 17th April 2023, Burmese New Year. The e-book is now available for immediate download!
Nell Murry telling the tale of the Chinthe
at Yale University (above).