Posts Tagged ‘gothic’

Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper

Posted in Historical Fiction, Victorian Mystery, YA Fiction on November 8th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

I must admit to being a big Mary Hooper fan and I’ve been hooked ever since I read Newes from the Dead.  She is a fabulous story teller and as a writer of historical fiction she really immerses the reader in the sights, smells and sounds of each historical period.

It is London, 1861 and our heroine, fifteen year old Grace Parkes, is embarking on the sinister sounding Necropolis Railway to hopefully bury a secret which will never be unearthed.  However, this burial is ironically the catalyst for the birth of a myriad of new challenges facing Grace and her vulnerable sister Lily who have been recently orphaned.  When their lodgings in the slums of Seven Dials are marked for demolition, they are made homeless and forced to seek employment with the Unwins, a disreputable family who seem to have cornered the market in funeral provision. Grace is employed as a mute, her particularly sad visage being much in demand whilst Lily is destined to be a lady’s maid, a decision which leaves Grace bewildered but do not worry – all will be revealed in good time!

Yes, this is a novel targeted at young teens but if you appreciate evocative writing, all things Victorian and Gothic, vividly presented characters you will be well rewarded.  I loved the insight into the Victorian fascination with death and mourning especially following the death of Prince Albert.  Even Charles Dickens puts in an appearance, how can you resist!   I’m anxiously awaiting Mary Hooper’s next novel which will be about Victorian Spirtualism – heaven on earth! ;-)

  • Share/Bookmark

Review – Florence and Giles by John Harding

Posted in Historical Fiction on May 16th, 2010 by admin – 11 Comments

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!  Indeed, Florence and Giles is such a book – I heard about it by chance  via Twitter, saw the cover, heard the words gothic, Henry  James, Poe and I was off like a shot.

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.  First and foremost of these is Florence’s idiosyncratic use of language as she transposes verbs with nouns and vice versa – you need a taster to demonstrate, 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 whole place a dustery of disregard.” 

 Now, I have a distinct feeling that you will either love Florence or hate her and as she is the narrator, your liking or disliking of her peculiar turn of phrase will make or break this novel for you.

As the tale progresses, events take an even more sinister turn and the arrival of a new governess, Miss Taylor, following the unfortunate demise of her predecessor, Miss Whitaker, seems to unleash malevolent forces which propel the reader along with the characters towards an inevitably calamitous ending.   Don’t expect subtlety but also, don’t expect predictability and be on your guard – who knows what’s around the corner in this macabre realm?

I would be very surprised if this doesn’t make it into my Top Ten Reads for this year – who needs nicotine, eh??? ;-)

  • Share/Bookmark