Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for In The Mirror, A Peacock Danced by Justine Bothwick. My thanks to Peyton at Agora Books for the invitation to join and the lovely review copy!
Author : Justine Bothwick
Title : In The Mirror, A Peacock Danced
Pages : 303
Publisher : Agora Books
Publication date : July 22, 2021
| ABOUT THE BOOK |
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.
| MY THOUGHTS |
Young Florence has high hopes and dreams. Unfortunately, the year is 1938 and the place is Agra in India. Under the critical gaze of her father, Florence seems destined for a life of ladylike hobbies and entertaining guests. But Florence wants more. Endlessly fascinated by all things mechanical, she wants to learn how things like engines work. Fifteen years later, we find Florence in post-war England. How did she get there? Why did she leave India? And will she ever be able to make her dream come true?
Through various timelines and switching back and forth between India and England, Florence’s life of ups and downs is slowly revealed. From the death of her mother, to her first love, to marriage and her extremely complicated relationship with her father, Florence is one of those characters who quickly endears herself to the reader. You root for her, you want better things for her and more than anything, you hope she finds a way to break away from her male dominated surroundings.
A lot of the story is set against the mesmerising and beautiful landscape of Agra. Justine Bothwick’s descriptions truly bring this setting to life. But not everything about this place is stunning. Some of Florence’s experiences happen near the beginning of India’s struggle to get away from British rule and things get somewhat ugly. I know very little about this piece of history but this novel has definitely left me wanting to find out a lot more about it.
Having these dual settings allows the author to tackle a variety of themes. There is domestic abuse, there is misogyny but more than anything there is racism and discrimination. Some of it Florence sees through they eyes of the servants at her father’s house in India; their differences never something she gave much thought until tensions in the country started to rise. But she is also faced with these issues in England, through her son.
In The Mirror, A Peacock Danced is a well-written story about fighting for your independence, about life’s trial and tribulations, about never giving up hope and about how it’s never too late to chase your dreams. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Florence, a woman who is most definitely ahead of her time.
| 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. She has short stories published in The Lonely Crowd, Fictive Dream, Confingo Magazine, and Virtual Zine, and forthcoming with Nightjar Press. Her work was highly commended in the Bath Short Story Award 2020. Her debut novel – In the Mirror, a Peacock Danced – will be published with Agora Books in June 2021.