Thursday, January 30, 2014

Review: Flora by Gail Godwin

Title: Flora
Author: Gail Godwin
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publish Date: May 7, 2013
Source: Library

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You like coming of age stories.
 What's the Story?:

From "Ten-year-old Helen and her summer guardian, Flora, are isolated together in Helen's decaying family house while her father is doing secret war work in Oak Ridge during the final months of World War II.At three Helen lost her mother and the beloved grandmother who raised her has just died.A fiercely imaginative child, Helen is desperate to keep her house intact with all its ghosts and stories.Flora, her late mother's twenty-two-year old first cousin, who cries at the drop of a hat, is ardently determined to do her best for Helen.Their relationship and its fallout, played against a backdrop of a lost America will haunt Helen for the rest of her life.

This darkly beautiful novel about a child and a caretaker in isolation evokes shades of The Turn of the Screw and also harks back to Godwin's memorable novel of growing up, The Finishing School. With its house on top of a mountain and a child who may be a bomb that will one day go off, Flora tells a story of love, regret, and the things we can't undo.It will stay with readers long after the last page is turned."

My Two Cents:

"Flora" follows Helen as she is cared for by her super-sensitive older cousin, Flora. It's a historical-fiction book that takes place during the last days of World War II. Helen's father is doing top secret work at the infamous Oak Ridge facility. Cut off from the rest of the world due to the ongoing polio epidemic, it's just Helen and Flora together. This is Helen's coming of age story told from her own perspective as an older woman.

Helen was a difficult character for me to really find common ground with. That being said, I don't think it's the author's intention that we, the readers, really like her. She's very intelligent for her age but she is also very bratty, often because of her feelings of superiority and the realization of her intelligence compared to other people. It's through this story and Helen's summer with Flora that we begin to see that Helen is aware that her haughtiness really doesn't win her any friends. She sees herself as being smarter than Flora and shows it, which gets her into trouble.

This book is sort of quiet. It's by no means a happy book and that's okay. I think it has a lot of good lessons. Who hasn't felt superior to someone else in some way before? We judge a lot of people when they don't fit into the molds we think that they should and it can be quite hurtful. This book was a good reminder that we have to seek to appreciate those that are different than us. Different doesn't necessarily mean better or worse. Helen eventually realizes that she shouldn't judge Flora for just simply being good hearted but it may have come too late!




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