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.