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 to for help, Florence will need all her intelligence and ingenuity to save Giles and preserve her private world. This is her chilling tale . . .

For a really good analysis and review of Florence and Giles listen to this from New Zealand Radio:


‘John Harding’s 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 rewritten by Edgar Allan Poe. Plotted to the last detail, it is punctuated with an ominous image of flawed innocence: a black rook on white snow. Nothing prepares you for the chillingly ruthless but – in retrospect – inevitable finale.’
The Times

‘It is a brave writer who will take on Henry James, but John Harding’s publishers trumpet his debt to The Turn of the Screw. Fortunately, however, Harding rings enough ingenious changes on James’s study of perversity to produce his own full-blown Gothic horror tale. Florence’s often very personal narrative powerfully and convincingly conveys the vulnerability of children faced with terror.’
The Independent

‘Nodding to Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, John Harding’s fourth novel is a tight gothic thriller about governesses and their frightened charges. The climax becomes unbearably tense. Florence (the 12-year-old heroine and narrator) feels the horror of her situation “cheese-grating” her soul, which is just how Harding leaves the reader feeling at the end of this creepily suggestive story.’
Financial Times

‘Real atmosphere is increasingly rare in novels and here it is in spades. Like James, Harding keeps his dramatis personae tightly confined and ramps up the terror until even the most careful reader wonders what’s going on. A tour de force.’
Daily Mail

‘Brilliantly creepy.’
Daily Mirror

‘A brilliant tension where the reader knows something wicked is this way coming, but with little clue as to the direction. The eeriness pervades like a dank fog. 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

‘Mysterious towers, faces in mirrors, shadowy corridors and long black dresses all conspire to create an intriguing, atmospheric ghost story told in a wonderfully captivating narrative voice.’
Edinburgh International Book Festival Top 10 Reads of 2010

‘Harding doesn’t pull his punches. The novel’s tension is skilfully built and maintained. If nothing else, this novel is likely to put inhabitants of any dark, draughty Victorian mansions off the idea of home education for some considerable time.’
Marylebone Journal

‘Unputdownable. In Florence, Harding has created an extraordinary character. Intrigue, suspense and tension colour the pages of this novel, drawing the reader into a sinister world from which not even the surprise ending will pull you back.’
Linea, Italy

‘Perfect for mystery thriller fans.’
La Repubblica

‘An exciting, metaphorical novel.’

‘I gave up smoking on 8th December 2008 and I must admit that I occasionally miss that nicotine kick but every now and then a great book comes along which replicates that surge to the brain! Florence and Giles is such a book. You don’t have to read The Turn of the Screw to appreciate Florence and Giles. This clever, gothic chiller has its own distinct merits. First and foremost is Florence’s idiosyncratic use of language as she transposes nouns with verbs and vice versa. Look at this wonderful description of the neglected library:
“No maid ever ventures here; the floors are left unbroomed, for unfootfalled as they are, what would be the point? The shelves go unfingerprinted, the wheeled ladders to the upper ones unmoved, the books upon them yearning for an opening, the hole place a dustery of disregard.”
I would be very surprised if this doesn’t make it into my Top Ten Reads for this year – who needs nicotine, eh?’

‘Thoroughly ingenious and captivating, a book in which nothing is certain – neither for the characters, nor for our perception of them and of what is happening. It’s a scarily good story, in an arrestingly unusual narrative voice. For Florence, having secretly taught herself to read in defiance of her uncle’s wishes, has developed her own idiosyncratic vocabulary and grammar that provide as much enjoyment for the reader as the story itself.’
Oxford Times

‘Quite simply, this book blew me away. Florence and Giles is one of the best books I’ve read this year, if not the best. I don’t get scared easily but I can honestly tell you that I was on the edge of my seat and contemplating whether I had the guts to turn the page. Sometimes, the whole “scary mystery” can be lame/cheesy in a book, and even though Florence and Giles involved evil spirits, ghosts, and other supernatural references, it felt real – which scared me. I found myself accepting whatever was thrown at me. I could keep going. I’m not even halfway through expressing all I feel about this book – yes, it was that good. If you’re going to read one book that I’ve blogged about so far, please, let it be this one.’

‘I did wonder towards the end if Harding was going to be able to pull everything off and I was nervous that the whole experience would be let down in the final pages. It’s quite the opposite in fact. Harding knows where this tale is heading from the start. The clues are there and have been all along. The tale was disturbing enough for me to feel uncomfortable being home alone at night when I was reading it. One for fans of suspense, tension and girls who are far too intelligent for their own good.’
Green Review

Florence and Giles has been a bestseller in Brazil where it was titled A Menina que nao sabia ler – The Girl Who Didn’t Know How to Read. This is how they sold it in Rio:


You can see the very wonderful Brazilian ad for the book here.

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