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!