Florence and Giles – John Harding
I don’t normally do horror books. I think the reasoning for this is my binge-reading antics over Goosebumps books and then the Point Horror ones when I was younger. I didn’t want that Point Romance rubbish. I needed the hard core stuff and I needed one at least every other day. I read all of the ones in the school library and would haunt the shelves each lunchtime, hoping to find a title that I hadn’t read. I even worked my way through the local library’s collection of spooky teen books.
I heard about Florence and Giles via Twitter – a lot of people were recommending it and there was also an offer on the Kindle version too. However, I don’t own an eReader (I’m still divided over them) so I went to a real-life bookshop (yes, they still exist) and got a copy for full price. If a book gets two thumbs-up then it has got to be worth the full price, right?
Florence and Giles is about Florence, a 12 year orphan, living in her Uncle’s remote New England Mansion in 1891, with her younger brother, Giles. The reader is sucked straight into the captivating narrative; following Florence’s unreliable perspective as she learns to read, secretly, after her absent Uncle bans her from books. In the dusty, neglected library, she devours books by Shakespeare and Poe. Because she is teaching herself to read, Florence’s language expression is great – “I would wasp her picnic". Sometimes it is confusing but this is adds to the atmosphere and is also questioned by the other characters.
I like the way Florence stands up to the stereotype of women from the turn of the century, by defying her uncle, being a strong character, and standing up for her beliefs. I could see Florence becoming a Suffragette in her adulthood. All though I think the adorable nature is to lure in the reader because she can be very scary too. At night she sometimes sleepwalks around the isolated, crumbling mansion (complete with strange figures in the mirrors, portraits watching every move and unexplained noises AND a boarded up tower) and has recurring dreams about a mysterious woman trying to threaten her younger brother. Other times she pretends to sleepwalk so she can find out about her past and her family.
After the sudden violent death of the children's first governess, a second, creepier teacher, Miss Taylor, arrives, and reigns over the mansion. Florence becomes convinced that the new governess is a malevolent spirit who means to do Giles harm. She sets all to do anything to protect her little brother at all costs. The ending is chilling and ambiguous – I’m not going to tell you though. I like a book that leaves the reader asking questions at the end.
I wanted to try and write a review without using the clichés of page-turner, spine chilling and gripping but I really am struggling but Florence and Giles is all of these things.
You can buy the book from Amazon. Florence and Giles .