Monday, September 26, 2011

Florence & Giles by John Harding


I decided to read Florence & Giles by John Harding for the  R.I.P. VI Challenge because it's described as a retelling of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. The latter is one of the scariest stories I know and it was also filmed as The Innocents (1961) one of the creepiest films I've ever seen.

In 1891, in a crumbling New England mansion, 12-year-old Florence is neglected by her guardian uncle and banned from reading. She learns to read on her own and narrates her story in a unique language of her own invention. After the sudden drowning of the children's first governess, a second teacher, Miss Taylor, arrives. Florence is convinced that the new governess is the spirit of the first governess and means to kidnap her younger brother Giles. She must find a way to foil Miss Taylor's plans before it's too late.

I found Florence's narration and her invented language extremely engaging. The first governess was “tragicked in a boating accident", a house is "uncomfortabled and shabbied", "the floors are left unbroomed, for unfootfalled as they are, what would be the point?" When she moves a book in the library it releases "a sneezery of dust."  You can see how the language takes some getting used to at first but it didn't take long to win me over.

The plot was creepy indeed and there were several scary scenes. Miss Taylor is able to malevolently appear in every mirror in the mansion, just behind Florence's own reflection. One night Florence catches Miss Taylor leaning over her brother and saying "ah my dear, I could just eat you." I actually had a nightmare involving the governess, Miss Taylor. Yes, it's true, this book is that spooky. My only complaint is with the ending which I thought was rushed and too open-ended. So it's definitely not a perfect book but if you're in the mood for a chilling read this Halloween then I definitely recommend Florence & Giles.

10 comments:

  1. Sounds pretty creepy. Ideal for the RIP challenge!

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  2. This one sounds interesting but I still carry the creepiness of The Turn of the Screw after rereading a couple of years ago.

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  3. Ooooh, that does sound creepy. Too bad about the ending, but I agree with Judith, a perfect match for the RIP Challenge!

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  4. This one looks quite creepy, even the book cover is freaking me out!

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  5. I agree that The Turn of the Screw is supremely creepy (though I'm sure my husband would disagree, as he is wont to do!), so I will have to keep this one in mind. Even without the RIP challenge, something about this weather brings out the need for spooky reads, doesn't it?

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  6. I am intrigued! The sneezery of dust made me giggle just a little bit.

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  7. Sounds good! I would probably read the Turn of the Screw first, though. I haven't read that yet.

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  8. I am loving the sound of the creepy one. Thanks for sharing with us.

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  9. I need to reread The Turn of the Screw! I love the creepiness of this cover.

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  10. I was drawn to this book by the eyes of the child on the cover - I literally saw it across a crowded bookshop and had to investigate! I enjoyed it a great deal, and agree that there are some very creepy moments, though that feeling is not sustained throughout. Its big selling point for me is the narrative voice - the way Florence talks is superbly executed and adds to her creation as a wholly three dimensional character. I am a High School teacher, and having read a short extract from 'Florence and Giles' to my Year 10 class as an example of writing to build suspense, the novel has done the rounds, and the kids still talk about it with me regularly. And anything that gets teenagers reading has to have somethang going for it!

    Lulu
    http://lampandbook.blogspot.com/

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