Read a sample extract from Florence and Giles by John Harding. (PDF file viewer required)
Florence and Giles Hardcover – 4 Mar 2010
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“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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Top Customer Reviews
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!
Florence lives in a large house in upstate New York in the 1890s. Her parents have met tragic ends, so she and her half brother Giles live in their uncle's house. The uncle is not there, but his retinue of servants are quite capable of looking after the children. But owing to his own sad past, the uncle makes just one stipulation: Florence is to be denied any form of education. Giles, on the other hand, is allowed to go away to school for all the good it will do him.
No matter, Florence has secretly taught herself to read and has devised ingenious ways to access the forbidden books in the well stocked family library... Telling her story in a curious secret language (consisting principally of verbing any and every noun she can think of), Florence seems both odd and endearing. We feel for her; we despise the injustice of keeping a woman away from learning; we tremble as the servants threaten to stumble on her guilty pleasures.
What unfolds has been compared to The Turn Of The Screw. I'm not sure that is quite fair. Sure, it's a gothic little ghost story, but whilst The Turn Of The Screw has a hidden double meaning, Florence And Giles is rather less coy about it. By the very end, there's really only one way it can be read. It is still a damn fine story, full of tension and twists, full of atmosphere and history. But it isn't The Turn Of The Screw.
Imagine, if you will, an old mansion in New England. It is 1891 and Blithe House's sole inhabitants are young orphans, 12 year old Florence and her younger brother Giles plus the small group of servants entrusted by their absentee uncle to look after them - an uncle who adds insult to injury by insisting that Florence is kept illiterate whilst her brother Giles is sent off to boarding school - well, we all know how females who read too much ended up in lunatic asylums until relatively recently! Fortunately Florence succeeds in teaching herself to read and, when Giles returns from an unsuccessful sojourn at boarding school, she greedily sucks up the crumbs of learning provided by the governesses enlisted to home tutor him. The feisty Florence narrates this chilling tale including the coming and goings of not one, but two governesses.
So far, so Henry James, you may very well think - swap Flora and Miles from The Turn of the Screw for Florence and Giles here, Bly House for Blithe House, Mrs Grose for Mrs Grouse etc etc - but you don't have to have read The Turn of the Screw to fully appreciate Florence and Giles. Whilst it indubitably pays homage to James, this clever, gothic chiller has its own distinct merits.Read more ›
This is a beautiful work, and held me enthralled until the superb finale. Florence's world (in more senses than one) is mesmerising, scary, lonely and enchanting by turns and often all at once. I remain lost in admiration of Florence's courage, resilience and determination despite her, shall we say, imperfections.
The idiosyncratic language is a joy and fits perfectly with the flow of the narrative. Their is no sense of it being forced. Could any writer better "a dustery of disregard"?
No need to have read Henry James to appreciate this, although I would recommend it anyway.
If you're unsure what a Gothic novel is, let Florence be your teacher!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I already wrote a review for this book before. Not one of his best,I guessed the guilty party fairly early into the book and it was a disappointing read compared to earlier ones.Published 5 months ago by Jazzy
Perhaps I made a mistake in reading this straight after re-reading James' Turn Of The Screw which provides its inspiration. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Roman Clodia
Loved this book. Shall now read everything John Harding has published.
Loved Florence and her own special language. Read more
Great book! I loved how it referenced The Turn of The Screw........ also reminded me of We Have Always Lived in The Castle. Florence will stay with me for a long timePublished 14 months ago by Jason Broadbent