Saturday, June 26, 2010

Florence & Giles by John Harding

Published: 2010
Pages: 261
Genre: Fiction
Florence is a young orphan girl living in her uncle's gothic mansion. Her half brother, Giles, also lives with them. Not being allowed to read, Florence constantly sneaks off into the library to get lost in her own world. But after the mysterious death of Giles' governess, the post is quickly replaced by Miss Taylor. Florence is convinced that the governess is her vicious supernatural enemy and has evil intentions towards her innocent younger brother. Without having any adults to help her, Florence begins to formulate a plan to save her brother.
Quite simply put, this book blew me away. I saw it on the "new arrivals" shelf at the library, picked it up, and nearly put it back because I already had a long list of books I wanted to read. I am so, so, so glad I didn't succumb to my sensible side, because Florence & Giles is now one of the best books I've read this year, if not the best. Sitting here writing this review is proving to be a difficult thing to do, because I'm having a hard time trying to articulate exactly why I adore this book so much. I'll try my absolute best, because I want to convince you to read this book - for your own sake, mostly!

So, after I read the summary from the inside of the book (which is similar to what I wrote above) I thought I was in for a story that was mildly interesting, perhaps even a tad dry. Wow, was I ever wrong with that assumption. Right from the first sentence I could tell this was going to be a unique book:

"It is a curious story I have to tell, one not easily absorbed and understood, so it is fortunate I have the words for the task. If I say so myself, who probably shouldn't, for a girl my age I am very well worded. Exceedingly well worded, to speak plain. But because of the strict views of my uncle regarding the education of females, I have hidden my eloquence, under-a-bushelled it, and kept any but the simplest forms of expression bridewelled within my brain."

Whoa. That made me want to keep reading, because who doesn't like a good, curious story now and then? The first few chapters were mostly introductions, essentially welcoming you to the book. We learn that Florence is an extremely imaginative and intelligent girl, while her younger brother is naive and not as sharp as his sister. We learn that she is adventurous, and often roams the hallways alone at night, trying to sneak into the housekeeper's room and hopefully learn about her family's past. We learn that Florence is protective over her brother, and is deeply bothered when he comes home from his boarding school due to being bullied and made fun of. All this leads up to the momentous event - when Miss Taylor, the new governess, arrives.

I love Florence's character, mainly because of her intuition and the observations that she makes. Something isn't right with Miss Taylor, and this soon proved to be true during an extremely haunting and frightening point in the book. I don't get scared easily, but I can honestly tell you that I was on the edge of my seat and contemplating whether I had the guts to turn the page. The governess was one of the creepiest character I've ever encountered in a book, which I wasn't expecting.

That's something else that I enjoyed about Florence & Giles - it was eerie and frightening, and the fact that it revolves around a child makes it all the more disturbing. Mystery plays a big part in the book, but it was a different caliber of mystery - the mystery of Florence's past and, more importantly, the mystery of Miss Taylor. You know, sometimes this whole "scary mystery" can be lame/cheesy in a book, and even though Florence & Giles involved evil spirits, ghosts, and other supernatural references, it felt real - which scared me a bit. I found myself accepting whatever was thrown at me, and I even got to the point where it seemed logical that the governess was able to watch Florence through the various mirrors in the house. (Curious about that? Read the book!)

This review is turning out to be a long one, but I could keep going. I'm not even half way through expressing all that I'm feeling about this book - yes, it was that good. So, to wrap this up, I'll say this: If you're going to read one book that I've blogged about so far, please, let it be this one.

Recommendation: I've made it quite clear, but I'll say it again: you've got to read this!


Aths said...

This one sounds amazing!! That you consider it one of your favorites of the year is making me curious enough to give it a try! Great review!

steph said...

Came by on the hop and stayed to follow and read this review. F & G sounds fascinating. Come on by.

Fangs, Wands and Fairy Dust

Jenn (Books At Midnight) said...

Thanks for participating in The Saturday Network!

Wow, amazing review. Though it seems a bit creepier than books I usually read, I think you've got me convinced to read this one. I'll keep my eye out for this one - thanks! And I know what you mean when you can't express all your thoughts because the book was THAT good. That's how authors like Laurie Halse Anderson sometimes makes me feel. :D

Alessandra @Out of the Blue said...

I'm visiting from the Saturday Network @ Books at Midnight. I hadn't heard of this book before, but your description is intriguing - for some reason it kind of reminds me of The Secret Garden and The Turn of the Screw.

I'm reading Oryx and Crake too :)

Jan von Harz said...

Well now I can't be sure but it would seem that you liked this book, yes?

Your passion is catching and anyone who reads this review will certainly remember to check this out, myself included. thanks

Emidy said...

Aths - It is amazing! It's definitely one of my favourites of this year.

Steph - Thanks so much! I'm off to visit your blog.

Jenn - Great, I'm glad you want to read it. Aw, Laurie Halse Anderson is such a good author.

Alessandra - Thanks for visiting! You know, I haven't read either of those books. I really want to, now that you've compared it to this book!

Jan - Hm, I think I liked it! Thanks so much for your nice comment.

Bookalicious Ramblings said...

Whoa, you know, I actually got a proof of this months ago and I wasn't really planning to read it, but now that I've read your review, I may have to put it high on my TBR pile ... Although I have to admit, I'm a bit of a chicken and don't particularly enjoy scary & creepy stories ... Do you think I should still give it a try, lol?

John said...

Hi Emidy

Thanks for posting such a terrific review of my novel Florence and Giles. It made my day!

John Harding

Aarti said...

Ooh, this sounds very similar to The Turn of the Screw. I wonder if it's based on that story. It sounds fabulous- great review!