Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Florence and Giles by John Harding (3.5/5)

The back says: 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 a 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 world. This is her chilling tale...

I say: I pretty much established last year that I don’t like so called gothic ghost stories after reading The Castle of Otranto and The Turn of the Screw – both bored me to tears. However, the reason I knowingly chose to read a book based on the latter was because of the language; Florence’s play with words.

However, this turned out to be both wonderful and wearisome in equal measures.

I understand Florence’s love of language, and I recognized a bit of myself in her and her love for Shakespeare:

“The thing I liked most about Shakespeare was his free and easy way with words. It seemed that if there wasn’t a word for what he wanted to say, he simply made one up. He barded the language. For making up words, he knocks any other writer dead. When I am grown and a write myself, as I know I shall be, I intend to Shakespeare a few words of my own. I am already practicing now.” – p 10

At the beginning of the novel it was cute and endearing the way she twisted words, but after a while I grew rather tired of it. It didn’t disturb the flow of the novel at all; the novelty just wore off, I guess. As a person who often abuses language in this manner, I didn’t really find it to be as impressive as other reviews I’ve read. I mean this:

“And every day while I Hamleted about, paralysed by my fears, I had to watch Giles more and more insinuated into her arms.” – p 161

I like. Whereas this:

“I puzzled me over this for some days.” – p 161

Makes me cringe.

But enough about language. The story itself was actually very engaging and what I imagine people who like The Turn of the Screw probably enjoy about it. Harding manages to create an atmosphere of suspense and dread that I haven’t really felt since reading Stephen King (I don’t read horror anymore, so maybe that point is moot). However, the reason I don’t read horror is because I have no patience to find out what goes bump in the night, and even thought this was rather fast paced, I found myself feeling bored after a while.

There were a lot of things happening and yet it felt like running around in circles.

Be that as it may, the ending was a pure perfection. I never saw it coming and when it did my mouth was wide open in disbelief. That ending alone was worth the read. Absolutely chilling.

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