Review: Florence & Giles, by John Harding

51HT6sriAaL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_Synopsis: 1891. In a crumbling New England mansion, 12-year-old orphan Florence and her younger brother Giles are neglected by their guardian uncle. Banned from reading, Florence devours books in secret, and twists words and phrases into a language uniquely her own.

After the violent death of the children’s first governess, a second arrives. Florence becomes convinced she is vengeful and malevolent spirit who means to do Giles harm. Against a powerful enemy, with no adult to turn for help, Florence will need all her intelligence and ingenuity to save Giles and preserve her private world. This is her chilling tale…

Title: Florence & Giles
Author: John Harding
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pub Date: 1st January 2010
Pages: 261
ISBN:  9780007315048

Rating: 5stars

Oh. My. Gosh! What the heck?! John Harding what have you done to me?! I am completely and utterly in love with this book. What a read?!

I read The Girl Who Couldn’t Read sometime last year and was compelled, but a bit confused. I felt like I needed to read the first book to truly appreciate the second. And I was right.

Florence and Giles reminds me of Henry James’s Turn of the Screw. The characters have remarkably similar names (Flora and Miles). Their stories are the same – same brother and sister, same situation, same issues with ghosts –  but, equally, very different.

Firstly, the protagonist in Harding’s rendition is the older sister, Florence. What a character! Strange, quirky and utterly engaging – I love her! Banned from reading, it doesn’t stop her from learning her words and devouring all of the books in the library; who wouldn’t cheer for her?

What’s even better is the way the story is told, in Florence’s secret language, inspired by the Bard himself, Shakespeare. The trading of verbs and adjectives add a whole new level of enjoyment to the prose – the passage below made me laugh-out-loud on the train.

“By contrast I hopelessed the task. My legs were determined to set off in opposite directions, my head had an affinity with the ice and wanted to keep a nodding acquaintance with it, my backside had sedentary intentions…”

If that wasn’t enough, the plot is fast-paced and very tense. I couldn’t help but make faces whilst reading this (to the delight of my new colleagues) – at one point I even squealed, which required an explanation of the entire plot.

All in all this is a brilliant rendition of the thrilling classic. I enjoyed it so much I’d even consider reading The Girl Who Couldn’t Read again just to appreciate it properly.


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