The lives of four Victorian gentlewomen are transformed when they leave the cozy confines of England for India to accompany their husbands or a brother who were appointed Viceroys of India, the crown jewel of the British Empire. Emily Eden, Charlotte Canning, Edith Lytton and Mary Curzon were well-born, cultivated women who experienced the extremes of decadence in a country gripped by poverty.
Emily Eden imagined an India of dazzling splendor but found a land of dark secrets. Charlotte Canning painted delicate watercolors while the carnage of the Great Mutiny raged. Edith Lytton feared the moral laxity and adultery of India but indulged her husband rather than restraining him. Mary Curzon, an insecure American heiress in thrall to her husband unwittingly was almost crushed by him.
Marian Fowler, “both scholarly and tart,” recounts their adventures in this classic work of colonial and women’s history.
“A marvelous work of evocation, narrative and research… I read Below the Peacock fan with great pleasure and interest.” –Nigel Nicolson
“Fowler has skilfully woven the experiences of these women into the story of the history, social life and rampant excesses of British India. It makes for captivating reading.” –The Montreal Gazette
“Wikedly witty… in short, thorouly enjoyable.” –The Ottawa Citizen
“Highly entertaining…” –House and Garden
“Witty, pungent and boldly irreverant and totally absorbing, Below the Peacock Fan is a book to be savoured. It is a gem.” –The London Free Press
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About the Author
Marian Fowler was born and raised near Toronto. She graduated from the University of Toronto with an honours BA in English Literature and the Governor General’s Gold Medal in English, later completing her PhD with a thesis on Jane Austen. She taught at York University for twelve years and has lectured widely in Canada, the United States, Britain, Italy and Sicily. She is the author of seven books of biography and social history, including The Way She Looks Tonight: Five Women of Style and Hope: Adventures of a Diamond. She has also written for Saturday Night, City and Country Home, The Beaver, The Globe and Mail, the Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature and the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. She’s been a fashion buff all her life, and for the past thirty years has haunted flea markets, antique shops, auction houses and thrift stores in pursuit of vintage designer apparel and costume jewelry. She resides in Toronto and spends part of each winter in the resort where fashion rules, namely Palm Beach.