Friday, August 11, 2017
Review: Victoria Holt’s THE INDIA FAN –Sweeping Victorian Tale of Adventure and Love in France and India
This is the story of Drusilla Delaney, daughter of a rector living in England in the mid 19th century. Near Drusilla’s home was the elaborate Framling estate, or as she thought of it, “the big house”. The Framlings were an old wealthy family tied to the East India Company and they were significant in Drusilla’s life.
We meet Drusilla as a young girl when she is taken to the big house to be the playmate of the spoiled but beautiful Lavinia Framling. Drusilla had previously encountered Lavinia’s brother Fabian, who kidnapped her when she was only two because he wanted to “play at being a father” and needed a child. Ever there after, Drusilla was fascinated not only by the big house and its secrets but also by Fabian. And because of that she would tolerate Lavinia.
In the big house lives Aunt Lucille who once lived and loved in India and who possesses a fan made of peacock feathers. Drusilla wonders at the tears shed by Aunt Lucille whenever she reads her old letters from her lost love. And Drusilla wonders about the fan, until one day Aunt Lucille tells her it is cursed and brings tragedy to one who has possessed it, which thanks to one of Fabian’s games, Drusilla has done.
Because of her early relationship with Lavinia, Drusilla is swept off to France and later to India where she experiences the Indian Rebellion of 1857, a perilous time for Drusilla and those she has come to care about. It seems she cannot escape the evil magic of the peacock fan nor the Framlings, for good or for bad. There are three men in Drusilla’s life and whether she will end up with any of them is kept in doubt for much of the story. There are no love scenes in this well-told tale but there is much emotion.
While I don’t generally prefer stories told in first person, there are exceptions, and Victoria Holt’s wonderful stories are among them. Superbly written, it tells a tale of mystery and intrigue, of a young girl’s strengths and insecurities, and her distant father who is more interested in Greek mythology than her. Interestingly, Holt rarely describes what anyone is wearing (the only clothing of her father we know of are his spectacles). She describes faces, most often expressions, that reflect the person’s character—and she does that very well. Drusilla is very perceptive, sensing others’ thinking long before those thoughts are reflected in their actions. So, while we are not in anyone else’s head, we have an idea of their thoughts.
The saga covers many years and is based on meticulous research. It is very well done, the only exception perhaps being that the romance between Drusilla and Fabian was a bit understated until the very end. I recommend it!