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Florence and Giles [Hardcover]

John Harding
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Mar 2010

A sinister Gothic tale in the tradition of The Woman in Black and The Fall of the House of Usher

1891. In a remote and crumbling New England mansion, 12-year-old orphan Florence is neglected by her guardian uncle and banned from reading. Left to her own devices she devours books in secret and talks to herself - and narrates this, her story - in a unique language of her own invention. By night, she sleepwalks the corridors like one of the old house's many ghosts and is troubled by a recurrent dream in which a mysterious woman appears to threaten her younger brother Giles. Sometimes Florence doesn't sleepwalk at all, but simply pretends to so she can roam at will and search the house for clues to her own baffling past.

After the sudden violent death of the children's first governess, a second teacher, Miss Taylor, arrives, and immediately strange phenomena begin to occur. Florence becomes convinced that the new governess is a vengeful and malevolent spirit who means to do Giles harm. Against this powerful supernatural enemy, and without any adult to whom she can turn for help, Florence must use all her intelligence and ingenuity to both protect her little brother and preserve her private world.

Inspired by and in the tradition of Henry James' s The Turn of the Screw, Florence & Giles is a gripping gothic page-turner told in a startlingly different and wonderfully captivating narrative voice.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Door; First Edition; 1st printing. edition (4 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007315031
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007315031
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 115,186 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Harding was born in a small Fenland village in the Isle of Ely. After village and grammar school he read English at St Catherine's College, Oxford. Since then he has spent most of his working life as a freelance writer,writing for a variety of national newspapers and magazines.

His first novel, What We Did On Our Holiday was a huge critical and commercial success and was filmed in 2006 by Granada for ITV. It was followed by the much acclaimed While The Sun Shines, and One Big Damn Puzzler.

His latest novel, Florence and Giles, is an international bestseller, charting in Italy and Brazil.

He is currently working on a fifth novel to be published by Harper Collins in 2012.

For more information, including reviews of his books,author readings and photos visit John Harding's official website:

http://www.john-harding.co.uk/

Product Description

Review

“You don’t need to know The Turn of the Screw to enjoy it. Real atmosphere is increasingly rare in novels and here it is in spades; mysterious towers, faces in mirrors, shadowy corridors and long black dresses. Like James, Harding keeps his dramatis personae tightly confined and ramps up the suspense and mystery until even the most careful reader wonders what’s going on and what isn’t. Your Twilight-reading teen will love it too. A darkly glamorous tour de force.”
Wendy Holden, DAILY MAIL

“Florence and Giles is an elegant literary exercise worked out with the strictness of a fugue: imagine Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw reworked by Edgar Allan Poe…Nothing prepares you for the chillingly ruthless but inevitable finale.” THE TIMES

“Brilliantly creepy” DAILY MIRROR

“An intriguing read” GRAZIA

“A good, clever, modern take on old-style American gothic; a creepy haunted house tale in which the living are just as eerie as any real or imagined ghouls.” NEW ZEALAND HERALD

“a scarily good story, in an arrestingly unusual narrative voice.” THE OXFORD TIMES

About the Author

John Harding was born near Ely. He is the author of the bestselling What We Did On Our Holiday, made into an ITV drama starring Shane Ritchie and Roger Lloyd Pack. He is a book reviewer for the Daily Mail and lives in London.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
This is a wonderful piece of Gothic writing, and I was totally gripped by this narrative, as told through the unique voice of 12 year old auto-didact Florence, whose idiosyncratic usage of the English language, culled from her extensive (but forbidden) reading in the old library of the spooky New England home that she shares with her younger brother Giles and the servants, is one of the joys of this book. Florence's colourful expressions are entrancing; thus, for example, she speaks of 'a sneezery of dust', of a visitor 'Gargerying his hat' (assume a Great Expectations ref.!), she describes herself as 'fairytaled and Rapunzelled in my tower', and, most delicious of all, (the phrase that really made me smile) when, speaking of her plans to thwart her sinister governess, she says " I would wasp her picnic".

Inspired by The Turn of the Screw, this story offers not one governess, but two, (or are there two?) and with her second governess, Florence plays a game of cat and mouse, convinced that the unpleasant Miss Taylor, who seems to have supernatural powers, is planning to harm her little brother Giles.
The question could be, who is the cat and who is the mouse? Can we believe Florence? For much of the book, I rooted for her and even at the very end, after every disturbing twist and turn, she had my respect.
I don't want to say too much about the plot, (avoiding spoilers!). The main thing is the book is full of tension and suprises and the ending is satisfyingly chilling. If you like ghosts, gothic and a sense of growing unease, try 'Florence and Giles' for yourself.
I read a lot of Gothic fiction, and this certainly didn't disappoint. A real gem!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stylish, chilling page turner 12 May 2010
Format:Hardcover
This is a well-written novel which is also a wonderfully Gothic thriller, complete with shadowy corridors, spooky mirrors and vulnerable, isolated children. The narrator is Florence, a young girl who is immensely likeable and engaging. One of the hallmarks of this novel is the peculiar, idiosyncratic language she has developed for herself and which pervades the book. One of the central questions too is how reliable she is as a narrator - is she right to be terrified of her "evil" new Governness with supernatural powers - or is she misreading the whole situation? It takes us the course of the novel to decide. Well-crafted and well-written as well as a fast paced ride.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An imaginatively written, spooky tale 5 April 2012
By Jimmbob
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I recently finished Florence and Giles and thought it was superb. The use of language made it a pleasure to read. Florence's peculiar vernacular is easily understood and at times more descriptive. Whether she's talking of a "Dustery of disregard", or explaining her current "Rapunzeled" state.

Some reviews have mentioned the ambiguity of the ending. I found having a, shall we say, perhaps not altogether reliable narrator in Florence gave it just the right amount. I feel that the clues to people's motives are there, and the book does tie most loose ends, while leaving you with enough space to draw your own conclusions. It's definitely one to read more than once, even if just to enjoy the playful use of language.

The story is deliciously gothic, at times very funny, and other times quite a sad tale. Anyone who has an interest in the classics will find this a fresh accompaniment.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly chilling 25 July 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This quirky, idiosyncratic Gothic thriller is written in the tradition of such masterpieces as 'The Turn of the Screw' and 'The Woman in Black' but it is a genuine original. It is gripping, chilling, utterly engaging, and truly, genuinely scary (Miss Taylor is a particularly monstrous creation). Florence, the narrator, has an extraordinary way with words - denied a proper education, her oddly-used vocabulary is drawn from the books she reads obsessively in secret (quotes from her favourite works creep in unacknowledged from time to time too). The oddity of her narrative 'voice' lends edginess to the story and adds to the unsettling atmosphere. (You'll find yourself thinking in Florence-speak, too, after a while!) I absolutely loved this book - as Florence might have put it ... while I was reading it, my house remained unbroomed, I was book-in-handing for several days, utterly stunned by Harding's brilliant wordsmithery.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a hoot - in the gothic tradition. 4 Feb 2012
Format:Paperback
The persuasive, yet seemingly not quite reliable young narrator, Florence, a fetchingly odd twelve year old whose days revolve around smuggling books from the library as she has been forbidden to learn to read, lives with her brother Giles at Blithe House -

"...a house uncomfortabled and shabbied by prudence, a neglect of a place, tightly pursed (my absent uncle having lost interest in it), leaked and rotted and mothed and rusted, coldly draughted, dim lit and crawled with dark corners..."

- the home of the uncle they have never met, with a few servants and the occasional governess. But the previous governess perished in an accident on the lake, and the latest - Miss Taylor - has aroused suspicion in Florence of sinister motives upon her arrival, being far too interested in Giles for Florence's peace of mind.

I loved this book for the fun that Florence has with language, for the sinister atmosphere aroused, the creepiness first peeking through Florence's observations and then asserting itself much more authoritatively, and for the unfolding of the mystery - John Harding doesn't over-clue the reader, but gradually allows us to intuit the motives and actions in Florence's narration - and, of course, for poor gallant, clumsy Theo, the gangly boy who steals kisses in exchange for poetry.

I haven't read 'The Turn of the Screw' by Henry James yet, it's one of my overlooked-for-no-good-reason classics. So, since other reviewers have pointed out strong ties (homage, retelling, reworking or revisiting, I didn't want to spoil either book for myself, so didn't dig too deep) there is at least one layer of story here that I've missed; hopefully I can still enjoy that aspect in retrospect.

Meanwhile, the book that Florence and Giles most reminds me of, is 'We Have Always Lived in the Castle' by Shirley Jackson. It is paradoxically a lovely story and an awful one simultaneously, and the most fun I've had reading for a long time.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A ghost story with a dark mystery at its heart.
This is a very interesting book which is set out as a deliberate reimagining of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw. Read more
Published 22 days ago by E. Clarke
5.0 out of 5 stars An All engrossing novel and thoroughly good read.
I really enjoyed this book and found myself still thinking about it after I'd finished it; others have precised the novel so I won't do that; suffice to say if you enjoy reading a... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Madeleine C-W
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves five stars for the wonderfully engaging voice.
Heavily influenced by The Turn of the Screw. A wonderfully creepy ghost story narrated by the unreliable Florence. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Bookness
2.0 out of 5 stars what a let down
I thought it was quite gripping at the beginning but I realised when she let Theo die that she was a real menace - & I thought so many issue were unresolved at the end. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Annette Sykes
1.0 out of 5 stars Left feeling Flat
Thought I would really like this but couldn't have been more incorrect, the characters are flat and lifeless, either you have to really like them or hate them to make something... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Talie
4.0 out of 5 stars Winter read
Read this book last year and I enjoyed it, not the greatest read of all times but it solved my purpose as I wanted something a bit creepy for my winter holiday in the snow.
Published 6 months ago by Lynn Craig
5.0 out of 5 stars Questions not answered
Exciting and a page turner! Left to the reader's imagination as to what really happened. Can't wait to discuss this at my next book club meeting.
Published 8 months ago by Anon
3.0 out of 5 stars It's okay
Great character development at the start however the plot lost focus which resulted in a poor and unsatisfactory ending. I'm unlikely to recommend it.
Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A different tale
Not my usual fare. I'm fond of crime thrillers involving flawed male detectives, more recently of the Scandinavian type. Read more
Published 13 months ago by A J Skryp
3.0 out of 5 stars On the way to very good but lacking a worthy ending
This was a strange book which for the most part I enjoyed, although found irritating at times. Much has been made of the narrative voice in other reviews, and I have to admit that... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Claire Simmonds
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