Cover Image: In the Mirror, a Peacock Danced

In the Mirror, a Peacock Danced

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Member Reviews

What a brilliant book. Absolutely stunning writing with vivid imagery and setting that transport you into a magical world. A very well written debut that I highly recommend.
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This book contrasts Florence's early life in India just before and during World War 2 with her life as a divorcee with a child in England in the 1950s. It's that contrast that makes this book different from the shelves full of books about young British women in India in the first half of the 20th century and sets it apart (but not necessarily above) the works of Julia Gregson, Dinah Jeffries, Jane Coverdale and others.

I'm not entirely sure I was convinced by the privilege of her youth. In the hierarchy of privilege in India, her dad, a railway engineering manager, might well have been considered a bit above the 'boxwallahs' (business men, import-export etc) but a long way below the magistrates, collectors and civil service types. I felt the horse riding past Agra and going on elephant hunts at Christmas might have been a little bit over-egged although I loved the character of her father who kept forcing her to sing and dance at social events, very much against her will.

She has a romance that was utterly beyond the pale but seems little commented on and then marries a man of mixed-race from the entertainment trade, again with little censure. Both things felt rather too progressive for a girl of her class and character, as did the swift attainment of a divorce in the 1950s with one partner in the UK and the other in India. Surely it was harder than that, especially for the less well-off members of society.  And then there's a weird sub-plot around circus artistes which just took this book away from 'just about believable' and put it into the realms of fantasy. I'm not saying it wasn't a pleasant fantasy, but I just wasn't buying Florence's involvement with the circus on either continent.

It's nice. If you like this kind of thing then you'll like this kind of book. Personally, I'm looking for a lot more historic rigour in novels set in India. I applaud the split location and its sense of "What happens after the happy ever after" which is always intriguing, but simply put, it felt a bit too fluffy. I also applaud the writer's decision not to sort everything out with a nice tidy romance which many writers of her genre would have found too tempting to include. 

It's a nice book. 

Thank you to the publishers and to Netgalley for my review copy.
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This book is an unexpected gem set in dual timeline in India and England. It was very atmospheric with a great story line. If you're looking for books set in different places, this is a good one to pick up.
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This book is making me want to visit India badly! I could just picture the sights, sounds, and smells, seems almost like magic!
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This story was rich, beautiful, and moving. I felt so much emotion for the main character and found myself relating in so many ways. This is a modern book destined to be a classic someday. Beautiful!
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A thoroughly brilliant read. Florence's life in India as a young woman and her adult-self in England, a fascinating contrast and very interesting to read. The story is engaging and sets out her early life in India and what led to her leaving for England.
A gorgeous cover but equally great story within.
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The thing that drew me to this book was its cover. There is a complicated feel to it, and the dual timeline was not war based, making me doubly curious.
The dual timeline swings between 1938 and 1953 and between India and Britain. This provides us with the saga of Florence Hunt, from her eighteenth birthday to how she finds her feet almost two decades later and everything that happens in between. There are some hints about certain events, but they do not actually turn out the way one would expect them to (given the blurb).
I liked both sections individually but felt like having the two carrying equal significance took away from the reading experience. Florence experiences so much that it seems to happen too fast to fit into the time frame of the book. I mention this sometimes, and this is one of those times that a book would have worked better for me if it were published as two separate books instead of a dual timeline.
The secret that we imagine we are inching towards did not pan out the way I thought, so much so that I felt like the build-up was not really required and I would have enjoyed knowing Florence in Agra and then progressing to her life after she leaves India as the following segment.
The supporting cast is interesting, as is her complicated father, who is unlike any character I have ever encountered before in historical fiction. It is a different tale with unexpected scenarios and a surprising ending, and I would recommend it to readers of the historical fiction genre.
I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers, but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.
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Growing up in India, Florence’s life is idyllic and sheltered.   Her friendship with Jay, an Indian citizen, makes life much more interesting, but living with her son, Robert in Portsmouth, England, gives them a different life, making Florence realize what she had given up in India.
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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?

I was engrossed in this novel from page 1
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Told through two timelines, this book revolves around the story of Florence depicting her life in India and England. This book takes us on a journey of self-discovery, freedom, a women's right in society and how it is never too late to fulfill your dreams. The book starts off with Florence in India, set across the lush valleys, gardens and forts. We move forward in time where she is England, pregnant and alone. We get to see her journey and how did she reach here and what all she had to sacrifice for this life. We see her struggles and difficulties in her various relationships either with her father, her husband or her friends. As a women she is restricted to do many things and how she overcomes it all and does what makes her feel truly alive. We see how the war of independence affected many livelihoods and forced people to do stuff they never imagined.
A great story written in simple language was definitely an interesting read.
I just reviewed In the Mirror, a Peacock Danced by Justine Bothwick. #IntheMirroraPeacockDanced #NetGalley
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This is the story (historical fiction) of a woman finding her freedom and her voice.  "In the Mirror, a Peacock Danced" follows the story of our unconventional protagonist, Florence, as she grows up in India and later moves to England, navigating WWII, India’s independence, and racial discrimination. Florence isn’t your typical British woman living in pre-WWII India—she enjoys riding horses and is interested in trains and mathematics.  She unfortunately has a father who wishes she would be more ladylike and scorns her at every turn—the way he speaks to her is truly painful at points.  The story flips between India and the UK and spans 15 years. We see Florence fall in love, meet an empowered woman, and soar to great heights (literally and figuratively).  But life has more in store for Florence and she finds her world constricting, especially once she moves to Britain.  As a reader, we are cheering for Florence to fight back and stand up for herself, yet we know how hard it is for those who are different to stand alone, against societal norms.

“Rebellion, a new refusal to accept the mediocre, the knowledge that there was so much to do and see, and she wouldn’t be confined by the lives and conventions of those around her.” (Bothwick, 2021) YES!!!!

Surprisingly, Florence’s life during WWII was skimmed over, which I found refreshing.  This novel is more about cause and effect and Bothwick was very effective in how she used WWII to mould Florence’s character without going too much into the war (haven’t we’ve all read too many cookie cutter WWII historical fiction books?).  This book also provided a little insight into how Indians viewed the war, which was great.  

Bothwick’s novel was simply beautiful.  She described everything in the right amount of detail.  The characters were believable and real.  The anguish, joy, and pain they felt, was tangible.  Her writing was lovely and fluid—this was a quick read.  Overall this provided a fresh look at women and their roles pre and post-WWII and I recommend!

Triggers: abuse, racism, bullying

Thank you to NetGalley and Agora Books for providing me with an ARC.
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2oth century India, Life is good.  1953 Portsmouth and life has changed dramatically.  This is a wonderful tale of a young woman who has it all and then discovers that post war England is a tough place to be.

Historical fiction at its best, it reels you in, it shares the exoticness of India and the greyness of England.  It takes you on a journey of one woman's life and how quickly it can change.  It is a book that easily goes between periods and countries without getting lost.  I love Florence as she is real, she has ups and downs but she has strength and courage.  

A great debut novel full of description, sights, sounds and smells.  You feel as if you are right there in the moment.
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This is an excellent debut and I loved it.
Great style of writing that makes me feel sound/smell/colours of india, a strong willed and clever heroine, a dual timeline that works and never confused me.
Florence fascinated me as she's clever and well thought.
This is an excellent debut and I want to read other books by this author.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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A girl born and brought up in India and it is now 1938 where India is at the crossroads of an independence struggle. The British are not wanted
and Florence has to go home. She who has only known the warmth and color of the tropics is expected to conform to a rigorous insular life with
her aunt and make a life for herself. Her father seems unconcerned about her, just feels she has let him down by not shining at whatever he 
expected her to do.

Florence's is clever with a bent for mathematics and engines - things which are not considered feminine enough and despite her long stint of work
with machines and in a supervisory capacity in a factory is not taken much notice of when she does apply to follow a line of studies. Florence's
story told between the time lines of Agra 1938 and Portsmouth 1953 could not be more of a contrast and she struggles to lift her head above
water and to make something of herself and her life. Subjugated by a husband who is a bully, with no family support of any kind she and her
son Robert have to find a way to survive.

The story is very descriptive in both countries - and shows how difficult it was for Britishers who had lived in the East for so long to try
to adapt to a country which they were strangers to and to a lifestyle they were not familiar with. 

Heartbreak, derogatory attitudes faced by Florence would have broken many women but Florence strives to survive knowing that a better future
could be got.

The story was very rich in both emotion (sad, tense and happy) as well as very evocative of places where it took place.
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In The Mirror, A Peacock Danced by Justine Bothwick was a descriptive dual-timeline historical novel about a woman’s journey to find herself, set amidst lush backgrounds of early 20th-century India and the slightly greyer background of mid 20th-century England. it was a slow paced but enthralling read and I enjoyed every minute exploring a very different time and place through Florence's perspective.  

I received a complimentary copy of this book.
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I loved the story as well as the way it was written!! This story follows Florence, fifteen years apart, and in totally different places. I liked the overall message of the story. Definitely worth the read!
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This historical fiction has a way of teleporting you, with such vivid descriptions of each location. You can imagine the sights, smells, sounds and people.

It's hard to not fall in love with Florence as she battles to try and find her way in life that fulfills her heart. Faced against many odds she tries to keep fighting for a happy life for her and her son.

This is a book of hopes, dreams and strength.
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The book follows Florence Hunt, an English woman who grew up in colonial India and lived there until the violence of the revolution drove her back to her home country that she had never known. We meet Florence as a fresh-faced 18-year-old girl who loves mathematics and dreams of going to an engineering school that women are rarely allowed to attend. We see her through heartbreaks, failed marriages, and moments of hope and rebellion.

I was crying at times and celebrating at others. This book had me genuinely feeling all the emotions. That was my real takeaway from the story - it was just so genuine. I've read so many books lately where I feel emotionally manipulated by the author. This book just rang so true. It was honest and compelling. Florence was very real to me. I knew her and I was rooting for her all the way.

I loved the pacing. Even when it moved slowly, it always felt like it was building up to something and every scene was intentional. I would recommend this to all my friends who love great historical fiction.
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We follow two timelines of Florence's life, one in 1938 at Agra and the other in 1953 at Portsmouth. We learn of her strengths, her weaknesses and we watch her grow.

I love the attention to detail throughout this book. My favourite part is when we are brought back in time to Agra. It's not just the vivid images of the animals like the peacock, or the snake that was in the house, it's the spices and flowers. The imagery is so strong I swear I could smell and taste it on my tongue.
Whereas, in Portsmouth I felt that dreary wet cold weather. So it was a real change from Agra, but having this different atmosphere really helped to distinguish between the two time frames. 

Living in the 30s, Florence was raised to be this idealistic woman of the society expected of her, especially her father. However Florence had other ideas she knew what she wanted in life, and although she was different compared to other women in her life she still wanted her blessing from her father. 

If you like Arabian settings, strong willed women, duel timelines then I highly recommend this book.

Book is out now.
Thank you to Netgalley and Agora books for the gifting of a eARC and to Justine Bothwick.
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This novel is set against the intriguing back drop of India, as a woman fulfills her quest for self discovery. I received this novel as an advanced reader copy from net galley in exchange for an honest review.
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