There is never enough time to read everything you want or indeed have, and my collection of books, like my wish list, is forever growing.  This particular book had been lying on our coffee table for a while unread. Until yesterday.


It’s a verse biography by Maureen Gibbons about a homeless woman called Lily Harrop, locally known as the “Butter Lady” due to surviving on sachets of butter, who was found dead in Perth’s Kings Park in 2001.  Part of the current Rabbit Poets Series, it’s a captivating read and is in fact the first verse novel I’ve read in one sitting, especially as I’m not a big fan of this genre.

Told in the voice of Pats, an old friend searching for an explanation for Lily’s death, it’s a moving elegy deftly weaving delicate moments and childhood memories with voracity and flashes of madness, as Pats pieces together Lily’s life before she died.  Upon finding Lily’s campsite in the park, Pats describes it as ‘a space of wild grass, sweet smelling freesias – a skin of silence –’

The butter fetish seemed to stem from when a young Lily and Pats worked in a corner shop, cutting, weighing and wrapping slabs of butter.  Now Pats imagines Lily furtively snacking on the fat, ‘feeling its vicious warmth in the back of her throat’.  And it becomes clear that Pats looked up to Lily as she surveys one of the many park’s gardens – ‘The scents are wild, untamed like the parts of Lily I longed to emulate…’

Halfway through the slimline book I found a snapshot that for me sums up the elusive troubled “Butter Lady”, relayed by one of the early morning walkers:

‘The day before her body was found,

she crossed my path.

She was grey and thin and carried

a rag-bag. I sensed she wanted to speak.’