In the Mirror, a Peacock Danced
by Justine Bothwick
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 24 Jun 2021 | Archive Date 06 Aug 2021
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.
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?
A Note From the Publisher
If you enjoyed reading In the Mirror, a Peacock Danced, we'd really appreciate seeing your honest review on Amazon or wherever else you buy books. Thank you and happy reading, Agora Books.
Average rating from 78 members
This book was incredible! From the settings to the characters to the pacing, everything was amazing! Each character felt well developed and realistic, with clear motives and goals, and development that didn't feel unnatural.
The plot kept me hooked throughout the entire book and was evenly paced, no area seemed to drag. At the beginning there were some moments were the non-linear time progression was a little harder to follow, but that was cleared up for all later chapters.
The setting description echoed the tone of the novel at each moment well, and had stunning descriptions without overloading with information.
A content warning for domestic violence in the book would be a good edition.
This was a very enjoyable read, I would definitely recommend it.
This gorgeous book takes place in pre war India where Florence Hunt spends her time exploring the splendors of the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort. Her father, a railroad baron, wants his daughter to become more interested in ladylike pursuits, while she yearns to know more about the world. She meets a physics professor, a man eager to share his knowledge with her, and she falls in love, with both the subject, and the man. Sadly, there is no happily ever after for the couple, and in 1953, Florence finds herself in England, pregnant and alone. As she struggles to find a place in world that has no use for educated women who want more than marriage and a family, Florence tries to resurrect the strong, curious woman she used to be. I loved this book, it’s filed with the glories of India and the struggle of a woman trying to assert herself in what was very much a man’s world
This book was wonderfully written, with excellent descriptions of India, and eloquent words strung together to create beautiful passages. I enjoyed this book due to that. However, it is not the most uplifting story, so beware.
Transport yourself to India and the circus through this beautiful story of strength and never giving up on your dreams despite the obstacles which keep trying to put you down.
This is the story of Florence Hunt who was born in Agra, India in the early 20th Century. She grew up surround by the lush jungles, roaming peacocks and going for daily rides with her horse past the Taj Mahal. She was brought up with her Amah after the death of her mother, and her rather chauvinistic father. Her father's aspirations for Florence were more to do with ‘lady-like’ activities such as singing and dancing, however, Florence aspires for more. With a head for maths and an interest in engineering having spent time working in the office at the railway with her father, on her 18th birthday in 1938, she was swept off her feet by a young engineer who encouraged her to learn with secret lessons on physics and engineering. Then the war came and everything changed.
Later in 1953, Florence is now pregnant and living with her aunt in Portsmouth, England. She is struggling to adapt to the grey dreary life in post-war Britain and her ambitions have not wilted however they are slowly fading. With a new husband and dreams diminishing, an old friend knocks on her door and brings her back to life.
I adored this story as I was fully transported to India and back again to the UK as I was taken on her journey in this wonderful time hop novel. I was on her side from the beginning to the end rooting for her, hoping she finds happiness and has the opportunity to follow her dreams. I really enjoyed learning with Florence as she was taught about engineering, I found it very insightful and just the right amount. Florence is a reminder to not give up on your dreams and aspirations. It's a beautiful uplifting story and one which I recommend to all fictional history readers, actually, anyone!
In 1930’s India, Florence Hunt lives an enviable life of privilege on a lushly landscaped plantation estate with her widower father who works tireless hours at a railroad company. She attends lavish parties and rides horses amidst the fragrant frangipanis and wild, gem-hued peacocks in the veiled shadow of the Taj Mahal. But Florence longs for more. She is deeply fascinated with anything and everything mechanical, to the disdain of her disapproving father, who prefers she pursue more “feminine” hobbies, like singing and dancing. When she meets a young engineer who works for her father, her world seems boundlessly transformed, until the impending war changes everything in the blink of an eye. Fifteen years later, Florence, is pregnant, single and living with her aunt in Portsmouth, England. Drowning in the doldrums of her new daily life and grappling with what once was, she begrudgingly continues her pursuit of happiness and to find her place in the world. Just as Florence seems to be on an irreversible path of self-destruction, someone from her past reappears, reigniting her flame and freeing her to soar to new and unimaginable heights.
This haunting and heartfelt coming-of-age tale is beautifully written, richly layered with the stark contrasts of ancient, ornate splendor of India, and the dreary, post-war gloom of England. At the center of it all, is just a girl, trying to find her way.
A stunning first novel, I can't wait to read more from this author!
An enjoyable reading experience with a dual time line and setting of India and post-war Britain. The descriptions of India are very evocative and exotic (lights, coulours, smells of spices and flowers, etc.) and contrast neatly with the drab, cold greyness of Britain in the early 1950s.
From a privileged childhood in British India Florence grows to become a strong woman.
What a gorgeous cover! This story was much more intense than I expected. Such a well written, amazing story! It does have some triggering content. But, I am so happy to have had the opportunity to read this book.
Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
Have you ever felt like your life needed a new path? That you’re not doing all that you’re meant to? Florence from “In the Mirror, a Peacock Danced” proves again and again that it’s never too late to reinvent your life. This novel follows a British woman living in India before and during Indian Independence, with railways, peacocks, and circuses all making an appearance. I really loved Florence and I could not imagine a better debut for Bothwick.
Really loved this book. It was set in between India and Portsmouth around the Second World War, following the brave and wonderful Florence as she made her way in the world. Fantastic characterisation and descriptions - I could really imagine all of the places. I also like the fact that I thought it was going to be a love story and it turned a corner of self discovery - just brilliant!
I really enjoyed this book!
Florence is such an amazing character. You can see that she tries to fit in the norms of a young woman living during the Second World War but she is definitely conflicted and wants to get out of the standards. Loved the journey of self-discovery she went through and how it ended.
She is into trains, which is something new for a woman in those years and that's what she's passionate about.
The writing was flowing and it was easy to read - only part I struggled with is when the author was going into too many details about trains and engines.
Whilst reading this, I was also reading 'Mythos' by Stephen Fry and noticed that the peacock is one of the symbols of Hera, goddess of marriage. Florence always sees and talks about peacocks when talking of/with Jay and I like to think there is a connection there (maybe it's just in my head, but I like to think there's Greek mythology everywhere).
I honestly really liked the background also. It was interesting to see India and the process it went through for independence from England, and how it was seen by both Brits and Indians - even though this is not the main topic of the book, I would have liked to see even more of it.
Love the cover of it as well, I hope there will be a version with sprayed edges!
Thanks to NetGalley and Agora Books for the opportunity of reading this advance copy.
‘In the mirror, a peacock danced 🦚💃🏽’ by Justine Bothwick
Set against the lush backdrop of 20th-century India ‘In the mirror, a peacock danced’ soars 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?
The moving story of one woman’s journey back to herself 💫 The book follows Florence, a British woman growing up in India before and during Indian independence. Brought up by her over powering Father who forced Florence to sing and dance like a performing monkey, ignoring her higher aspirations in life and passion in maths and engineering.
I thought Florence was an incredible characters and her journey to free herself was certainly a heartbreaking one. She fled an abusive husband and longed for a better life in England. She went through a lot yet carried on pursuing her own dreams to make a better life for her and Richard.
It was beautifully written and one I would recommend to all historical fiction lovers. A reminder to never give up on your dreams and never let anyone tell you you can’t 💖
Thanks to @netgalley, @agorabookldn and @justinebothwick for the advanced copy! Publication date 24th June 2021 📖
A beautifully written book contrasting Florence's life in India as a young woman and her adult-self in England. I can imagine "In the Mirror, a Peacock Danced" by Justine Bothwick as a television serial, it has such a wonderful cinematic quality. The story is engaging: her early life in India and the events that lead up to her departure to England, and her family life in that cramped house in Portsmouth. The everyday drudgery is then juxtaposed with the circus life of Florence's sister-in-law.
In the Mirror, a Peacock Danced.
This book is about a young girl growing up in India before WW2 with many interesting details, she experiences love, laughter, sadness and depression outlining her life in India and then onto England where she settles,
For me, it had a cliffhanger in the middle and my guess was very wrong. From here she went onto to take control of her life and feelings.
It was a very enjoyable read and I couldn't put the book down.
Florence is a wonderfully complex character and reading about her story flows so well.
Beginning in India with a chauvinist father, we see her struggle with fitting to societies forms then and again, in post-war England later on in the book.
Parts of the story dragged on, there were overly descriptive moments, yet some beautifully vivid ones as well.
Overall, I enjoyed seeing Florence through the different stages in her life and her reaction to the different controlling men. I love a good, inspiring empowered woman story.
Set in India mainly around the time of their independence we meet Florence and see her emergence as a woman. There are themes of love, race, colonialism and domestic violence but over-arching all of this is the emancipation of womanhood. The flight of trapeze and canon being an effective metaphor for Florence’s flight to freedom. The irony of her saddling herself with another bad marriage in England is reflective of the times she was living in. But once again the canon comes to her rescue and she flies again. The characters in this novel were real and I had some sympathy for the main protagonist, it was a steady read and one that I quite enjoyed. I loved the title - that alone would ensure I picked the book off the shelf in the bookshop. Thanks to the publishers and netgalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
Florence grew up in bustling exotic India and is a teenager when the book starts in 1938. Her life is one of privilege as her father is a railroad baron. However, as a dreamer she feels trapped as a female yearning for more at a time when females had fewer opportunities. Her independent spirit is restricted, mostly by her Papa and the mores of the day. When she meets a fellow intellect who is not only bright but treats her as an equal she is thrilled. Her logical mind grasps mechanics readily as she learns about the inner workings of engines.
In the 1950s England Florence is pregnant and now must be independent as she is by herself in a bleak post-war world which is reeling. Her life has dramatically changed and she must learn to adjust and navigate life on her own. But she still is determined to dream big.
Both timelines are gorgeously written. The descriptions are stunningly vivid and extrasensory. I really enjoyed reading about her relationships and their evolution (especially with Robert) and her character. The circus and railroad threads running throughout are unusual and fascinating. And the cover is breathtaking! Clever title as well. Thankfully what lies between the book covers is just as beautiful. At the back is a Further Reading section which I appreciate as I am eager to learn more about the politics of India/Britain and how women lived in that era.
If you yearn for lovely writing and an original story, do pick up this book. It would appeal to General Fiction and Women's Fiction readers.
My sincere thank you to Agora Books and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this marvelous book.
Absolutely loved this read. As if the catchy title and gorgeous cover don't do enough, this is simply beautiful.
Tackles at the heart of it some really current hot topics such as feminism, gender equality, race and class. Love the circus portrayals and the India scenes are interesting too..
Liked the time frame changes and the India/UK scene swapping,
Stunning debut and definitely an author that is one to watch- will keep on my radar.
Florence felt so real and at the heart of it, in a post war UK, she faces some real life struggles that are relatable yet moving.
Well if this book wasn't just amazing!
It was set in between India and Portsmouth around the Second World War, Which I thought to be such a great add! Very interesting.
Every character in the novel is well-rounded and clearly defined,
Ready to go on an intriguing, amazing journey? Well get ready because In the Mirror, a Peacock Danced is a heck of a ride. And the journey was beautiful. I couldn't stop reading this. Once I started I finished in almost two days!
The writing flowed beautifully and wonderfully. Justine really blew this book outta the water and I couldn't help but love everything about it!
Thank you so much NetGalley, Agora Books ANF Author for this amazing ebook copy!.
This is a beautiful debut novel, centred around a woman’s journey of self discovery as she tries to resist the patriarchal society that confines her. Florence, our protagonist, is a gorgeous soul who has passion and tenacity for her life and dreams.
The plot follows a dual timeline: in 1938 Agra, India where Florence was born and raised, and 1953, Portsmouth, England where Florence now lives with her Aunt. The timeline alternates between past and present as Bothwick unravels the events of Florence’s life that have led her to where she is in the present day.
It’s a stunning book, brimming with emotion and beauty, it’s a truly immersive story that had me gripped from the very first page. I think one of the reasons I felt captivated by the story was because of the protagonist, Florence. Florence is a memorable and powerful character, I was in awe at her resilience and passion for life. There were times where she lost herself, but that made her restoration with her self and identity even more remarkable. Bothwick’s writing made me think about the small pleasures in life, the importance of our sense of selves and identities, and how it’s never too late to change the tracks on the train of life.
To summarise, this book was: impactful, scenic, educational, enthralling and gorgeously written. It’s a complex mix of historical fiction, feminism and racial injustice - I’d highly recommend!
In the Mirror, a Peacock Danced by Justine Bothwick is a beautiful story of self-discovery. I love books with duel timelines, and really enjoyed how these were weaved together seamlessly. The writing is very good and the pace is fast enough to keep you interested, but slow enough to allow you to savor the details.
The 20th century India setting was a new world for me to explore. I enjoyed Florence’s narrative more than Agra’s, but maybe that’s just because I found her more relatable.
I love women empowerment stories and found this one captivating. I would recommend this book to others.
A wonderful prose for a beautiful book.
I was first drawn to this book by the peculiar title and stunning cover, then I started reading it and couldn't stop.
Narrated in a dual timeline in pre and post war India and post war England, it follows Florence's up and downs of life.
The descriptions in general, and of India in particular, are breathtaking, utterly beautiful.
Florence is a strong character who lets herself go at times, as it is common, but who picks up her life and turns it around again.
Justine Bothwick is a new author to me, but this book made me want to know her better and read other books by her.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
In the Mirror, A Peacock Danced is a captivating and compelling piece of sublime historical fiction set against the backdrop of Portsmouth, England and Agra, a city on the banks of the Yamuna river, in Uttar Pradesh, India. It's 1938 in India and Florence is becoming a woman as she is celebrating her eighteenth birthday and is in love for the very first time. Growing up in India under The British Raj and with British colonial rule, she was raised by her somewhat misogynistic father and Sita her "amah" after her mother’s sad passing, and although she had always been endlessly fascinated by engineering, and especially the railway her father works in and around, the time doesn't allow her to do such laborious or dangerous work. Because, of course, that is deemed to be the employment of men and she should be suited to a more ladylike existence. She adores her life in her native colonial India but is sent to Britain after the War of Independence in which India gained independence from our rule and lives in Portsmouth with her Aunt Sarah. The aim is for her to pursue her dreams in a richer part of the world, find a husband to marry and start a family.
But Florence misses Agra terribly and desperately longs for home and the balmy nights and daydreaming days. Before too long she begins to lose her way in life. She finds herself feeling bored with the monotonous everyday stresses and strains of running and maintaining a household; a job she never had to lift a finger to do in her native land due to able domestic servants. But then a surprise visitor arrives just in the nick of time to remind Florence that she has much to give and live for. This is a captivating, luscious and intoxicating piece of historical fiction complete with exotic location and the sense of time and place evoked superbly. I was swept away by the moving and alluring tale and found the outdated views of the time were accurately illustrated as well as addressing British colonialism, imperialism, woman’s rights, capitalism, desire and passion. The sights, sounds and smells of the time were vividly described so much so that I could transport myself to the banks of the Yamuna river and the hustle and bustle of the markets and can understand why Florence was reluctant to leave. An exquisite, richly atmospheric and absorbing read. Highly recommended.
This is a stunning story that captivated me from the beginning. Florence’s story is told in a dual timeline going skipping through the different stages of her life as well has having flashbacks to her time in India. Florence is such a strong character and her story is one of love, longing, heartbreak and determination. I honestly could read about her for a long time. I think this story would be amazing on the big screen.
Set in pre and post war India, this is a story that follows a dual timeline and captures the years of growing up and then growing older beautifully. Written in the steady voice of our Heroine, Florence Hunt, we take a look at her years spent growing up and maturing in India. We then meet her again at a later stage in life as a mother and wife living in England. A dull and uninteresting place compared to her childhood home. With flashbacks, and memories we see her life unfold and watch her find her feet in an ever changing world. A young woman who yearns for more than mediocrity and has an intrinsic fascination with the mechanical and mathematical world, she is not quite like all the other young women who belong to the families of the Club. An exposé of longing and loss, loss of will, love and direction, it was a beautiful book that captured the exotic feel of its exotic setting. Set during a time when India was thrown into turmoil as they strove for independence, this unsettled energy followed our young woman throughout her tale as she tried to find her feet. Our leading lady lead an interesting life, a life that had me wishing to join in and live right along with her. The quiet joy that she thrived on had me in her thrall and had me wishing for nothing but the best for her. Alas, this is a book about a woman returning to herself after she had lost the girl she had once been, drowning in the bone deep sadness that she couldn’t seem to shake, so the best was not always what she received. I find myself unable to think of a peacock in the same way I used to before this reading experience. To find out why, I would recommend you read the book. Sumptuous writing and an exotic setting come together perfectly to create a novel of great beauty, quiet joy and deep sadness. A book that perfectly displays the loneliness felt when you leave your heart behind and lose yourself along the way. I enjoyed it thoroughly and am not ashamed to say that I shed many a tear towards the end. A book I am sure I will return to in the future just to visit my new favourite human cannonball again, the girl who drove a truck in the war and somersaulted over a rainbow. A peacock who learnt how to fly.
From the intriguing title, and the sumptuousness of the cover, In the Mirror, a Peacock Danced draws you into the exotic world of colonial India in the heady years just before the country's independence.
The story opens in 1938 and into the life that Florence Hunt enjoys in Agra with her widowed father. In a world of privilege and dazzling colour, Florence reaches her eighteenth birthday as a beautiful self-possessed young woman with a lively mind and an enquiring nature. The story then jumps forward to 1953 where we meet up with Florence in Portsmouth and my interest was immediately piqued as to how Florence came to be living in such dreary circumstances in post-war England.
I enjoyed piecing together Florence's life in India, especially her enthusiasm for all things engineering and in particular her interest in the railways which makes her something of an oddity amongst her female contemporaries however, she is filled with a questioning mind and it is this which moves the story forward. The author writes with a lovely, light descriptive touch bringing Florence's complex character to life with all the contrasts, both in India and England.
In the Mirror, a Peacock Danced flows beautifully with such an authentic feel to time and place that I was equally at home chasing the peacocks in India as I was immersed in the post war gloom of Portsmouth. Florence is a worthy protagonist, full of contrasts which comes from being caught between two worlds and it was fascinating to watch how all the pieces of her life finally came together.
I am sure that on the strength of this debut novel we shall expect to see much more from this talented new author in the future.
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.
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.