Originally published: 24 June 2021 (eBook) ; 22 July 2021 (Paperback)
Author: Justine Bothwick
Published by: Agora Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page count: 305
Reading dates: 13-18 June 2021
Agra, 1938: Eighteen-year-old Florence Hunt has grown up riding horses past the Taj Mahal and chasing peacocks through her backyard under the critical gaze of her father. Increasingly enamoured with his work on the booming railway, Florence yearns to know more, but finds herself brushed away, encouraged only to perform the more ladylike hobbies of singing and entertaining guests. So when a dazzling young engineer walks into her life, she finds herself not only gripped by secret lessons in physics but swept entirely off her feet.
Portsmouth, 1953: Fifteen years later, Florence finds herself pregnant and alone in post-war England –a far cry from her sun-drenched existence in India. Struggling to cope with the bleakness of everyday life in a male-dominated world, Florence is desperate to find the woman she used to be. But when someone from her past reaches out, Florence might just have a chance to start over.
Soaring from the shimmering heights of the big top to the depths of heartbreak, can Florence find the happiness, independence, and passion she once had in order to start living again?
Set against the lush backdrop of early 20th-century India, In the Mirror, a Peacock Danced – the debut novel from Justine Bothwick – is the moving story of one woman’s journey back to herself.
Happy ebook publication day to the captivating In the Mirror, A Peacock Danced! The cover was enough to make me want to read this book but once I realised it was historical fiction, set in both India and in post war England I knew it would be perfect!
As the book begins, Florence has just arrived in Portsmouth in 1948 to live with her dead mothers sister, pregnant and alone. Told in flashbacks we hear about her life in India and how she has found herself in England.
In 1938,18 year old Florence lives in Agra. She has grown up in India, cared for by her father and their servants. She is definitely not a typical lady of the era – she has an interest in mechanical engineering and mathematics and is happiest when helping her father in the offices at the railroad where he works. When she meets a young Indian engineer who is happy to talk her and to explain to her how an engine works and let her drive his car she is swept away.
But then World War 2 happens, the engineer is sent to war and Florence is drafted in with the war effort. When she returns to Agra, she hasn’t heard from him for some years so presumes him dead in the war. Through her father she is introduced to singer Nick, whom she marries. Marriage to Nick is not what she expected but luckily, Nick’s sister Ester becomes a great friend to Florence. She loves the excitement of Ester’s life, performing in the circus as a trapeze artist and a human cannonball and spends much of her time with the circus folk, escaping her loveless marriage and enjoying the magic of the circus!
When we cut back to 1953, Florence is lonely and sad – her new husband in England doesn’t provide the excitement she craves, she has no friends, her son is being bullied at school for being different and she is unable to work or study in the typically male dominated professions she is interested in.
I thoroughly enjoyed In the Mirror, A Peacock Danced! Transported to India, this was a vibrant and evocative read. I enjoyed learning about India at this tumultuous time in history – with World War 2 and the fight for Indian Independence from the British, there is lots to cover here. Florence is a fantastic character – I loved her pluckiness and interest in all things mechanical. The downtrodden woman living in England is certainly not the woman who left India and I was hoping she’d get the happy ending she certainly deserved.
A fantastic debut, this is a must for fans of historical fiction. Moving and full of colour and excitement, I really enjoyed this.
Many thanks to Peyton at Agora Books for sending me a proof copy for the blog tour. You can see what others are saying by checking out these other brilliant bloggers!
In the Mirror, A Peacock Danced is my 4th book from my 20 Books of Summer.
About the author:
Justine Bothwick grew up in Kent and Hampshire, and studied in London. In 2005, she moved to Italy and now teaches English in an international secondary school in Rome. She is married to a Roman architect. Together they have a flat in the city with a small balcony on which she grows her ever expanding collection of plants and watches the local birdlife.
Justine is a graduate of the Manchester Writing School’s Creative Writing MA programme and has short stories published in Fictive Dream, Virtual Zine, Confingo Magazine, and forthcoming in The Lonely Crowd, and with Nightjar Press. In the Mirror, a Peacock Danced is her debut novel.