The flitting

In March 2020, Ben Masters’ father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He was never happier than when outdoors, and spent his free time chasing butterflies. Despite his attempts to share this passion with his son, Ben was resistant. But as his father spent his final months confined to the house, unable for the first summer of his life to follow the butterfly cycle, Ben became his connection to the outside world. Blending memoir with nature writing, literary biography and pop-cultural history, this is an absorbing account of loss and grief and how moments of trauma can trigger poignant transformations.


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When Ben Masters' father, a dedicated naturalist, is confined to the house with inoperable cancer, he is unable to follow the butterfly season for the first time since his childhood. His son must become his connection to the outdoors, reporting back on his beloved Purple Emperors, Lulworth Skippers, Wood Whites and Silver-studded Blues. The problem is, his son knows practically nothing about the natural world. Blending natural history, pop culture, and literary biography, this unforgettable memoir charts a terminal summer when butterflies become a way for father and son to talk about masculinity, memory, identity, generational differences, and, ultimately, loss and continuation. The Flitting takes readers on an unlikely journey, flitting between the lives and works of Vladimir Nabokov and other literary lepidopterists; the artistic metamorphoses of Prince and Joni Mitchell; butterflies and gender in Virginia Woolf, Angela Carter and The Sopranos; the voices of John Clare and Luther Vandross. These diverse subjects come together in an intensely authentic portrait of a father and son sharing passions, lessons and regrets as they run out of time.

Additional information

Dimensions 216 × 138 mm


Granta Books


Granta Books








823.92 (edition:23)


General – Trade / Code: K