Nancy Roach has fled her dissertation advisor for Paris, where her PhD research is proving fruitless. When her curiosity is piqued by an illustration of “The Parasol Flower” in a nineteenth-century treatise, she is drawn into the life of Hannah Inglis, an unknown but talented artist who slipped out of art history and into the Malaysian wilderness.
Working from Hannah’s letters and a cache of paintings—all of which have ended up, mysteriously, in the possession of the defamed Peterborough-Munk family—Nancy attempts to reconstruct a pivotal year in Hannah’s life.
The year is 1896, and in Kuala Kangsa, British Malaya, Hannah struggles to keep painting. Her husband and their expatriot circle increasingly oppose her art-making and its “uncivilizing” influence. Hannah finds support from two unlikely sources, the intimidating Eva Peterborough, an evolutionary biologist, and the Sikh police sergeant Darshan Singh who assists on treks to paint en plein air.
They are searching for a rare and legendary specimen—a flower that blooms as big as a lady’s parasol. Eva agrees to cover for Hannah and the Sergeant as they explore the mountainous jungle on her family’s estate. But nothing that’s meant for an audience can stay hidden. The science that Eva and Charles Peterborough are discretely pursuing at Idlewyld will polarize the two friends, put the townspeople in turmoil, and change Hannah’s life forever.
Praise for The Parasol Flower
The Parasol Flower is an engrossing tale of two impassioned women, separated by a century, both hunting for treasure: one is an artist trekking through a pulsing Malaysian jungle, seeking a singular, exquisite flower; the other, a scholar trekking through the tangles of time-past, seeking a singular, exquisite woman. Beautifully written, utterly engaging and sparkling with wisdom, Karen Quevillon’s outstanding debut novel vividly explores the essential urgency of heeding the persevering yearnings of one’s creativity and destiny.
– Janet Turpin Myers, author of Nightswimming and The Last Year of Confusion
[Karen] Quevillon shows an intimate knowledge of the problems women face today as well as those faced a couple of hundred years ago. The juxtaposition of these two timelines is more and more striking as the story progresses and leads the reader’s thoughts along the unique paths of everywoman. This is a novel for the thinking person who delights in identifying and solving society’s problems. I loved it.
– Elaine Cougler, author of the Loyalist trilogy