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Flora: A Novel by Gail Godwin
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Flora: A Novel (original 2013; edition 2013)

by Gail Godwin

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2962437,920 (3.74)13
Member:Jaylia3
Title:Flora: A Novel
Authors:Gail Godwin
Info:Bloomsbury USA (2013), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:fiction

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Flora by Gail Godwin (2013)

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» See also 13 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
Hmm. Not a wow.

You know, when I visit my parents - who are the same age as Ms Godwin - they spend a lot of time talking about the past. It's not boring but it's not always interesting either. Godwin's last few books have been like this. I get it but I miss the sharpness and the candor of her earlier books. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
The story of Helen (age 10) and summer guardian, Flora (age 22) during the final months of WW2.

The story takes place in a rambling, decaying house that was once a sanatorium for folks she calls the Recoverers."
The backdrop is the North Carolina hills.
The plot revolves around the intertwining lives of "motherless, precocious" Helen and guileless, simple-hearted Flora.

I have to admit that my interest intensified as the narrative was winding to a close.

3.5 ★ ( )
  pennsylady | Feb 2, 2016 |
Loved this book! ( )
  jules72653 | Dec 26, 2015 |
Eleven-year old Helen is left in the care of her deceased mother’s twenty-two year-old cousin for the summer while her father is away doing secret war work at Oak Ridge. Helen is too precocious for her own good, and Flora a bit too naïve. This is an eventful summer for them both. With a polio outbreak in town, they are confined to their house rather out of town up a mountainside. Their groceries are delivered on motorcycle by a vet on medical leave, who is befriended by both girls. During their mundane daily life, they each get to know the other.

”Embarrassingly ready to spill her shortcomings, she was the first older person I felt superior to. This had its gratifying moments but also its worrisome side. She was less restrained in her emotions than some children I knew. She was an instant crier. My grandmother Nonie, that mistress of layered language, had often remarked that Flora possessed “the gift of tears.” As far as I could tell, layers had been left out of Flora. All of her seemed to be on the same level, for anyone to see.”

I enjoyed the way the author opened up both girls’ characters very realistically as the story progressed. The setting of their home, an old consumption hospital which had been built and run by Helen’s grandfather, added an interesting back story. The very first sentence carries the word “remorse” and that is wrapped up in every thread of the story. I found another new (to me) author to enjoy. ( )
  countrylife | Nov 8, 2015 |
enjoyable, but not great book about a young woman who is watched by her cousin for a summer and the tragic ending. Quick read ( )
  lindaspangler | Aug 19, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
The novel owes a clear debt to The Turn of the Screw – the lonely house, the isolated governess with her charges, the name Flora – but there's little of the supernatural here. Godwin is much more interested in the gulf between children and adults; the child unable to foresee the consequences of her actions; and the lasting, formative effect of one single terrible error of naive judgement. If it reminds me of any other novel it's actually Atonement, but, dare I say it, Flora is a sharper, clearer portrait of a life lived remorsefully.
 
Gail Godwin’s 14th novel, “Flora,” offers a veritable taxonomy of orphans: from the conventional, both-parents-died variety to the quasi-orphan (one parent still nominally in the picture) to the elective orphan (a runaway) to the reverse-orphan (a parent unmoored by the loss of a child). In fact, as the story unfolds, we realize it’s populated almost exclusively by orphans of different stripes. It’s a mark of Godwin’s light, sure touch that this doesn’t feel contrived. On the contrary, it begins to feel natural, inevitable that beneath the surface of any individual we’ll find a lonesome soul, cut adrift.
 
The success of this trim novel rests entirely on Godwin’s ability to maintain the various chords of Helen’s voice, which are by degrees witty, superior, naive and rueful. Raised on books and her grandmother’s advice, the bright little girl has developed a comically antique manner of speaking — and the snobbery to go with it. It annoys her that Flora is so “indomitably cheerful.” She’s constantly correcting her guardian’s diction (“It’s a study, not an office.”). She’s aware of falling into her “smartypants mode” but usually can’t help herself. It troubles her that her cousin “shows no discrimination about people.” Fed up one afternoon with Flora’s floundering efforts to entertain her, Helen finally suggests, “Why don’t we each go to our own room and replenish ourselves?” Do 10-year-olds talk like that? Well, Helen does — that’s the point: She’s a flawless blend of precocious sophistication and youthful cluelessness. And your faith in the possibility of “her strange childhood” is the measure of this novel’s unsettling effectiveness.
 
"Godwin confronts the racism and snobbery of the period and deftly evokes the texture of domestic life shaped by food rationing, serialized radio dramas, news reports, or hearsay about the war and phone conversations connected by live — and often eavesdropping — operators."
Godwin’s novel shifts from lively dialogue to young Helen’s complex internal monologue to deft dramatization of that eventful/uneventful summer, all mediated by the adult Helen’s measured, melancholy reflections. “I now say alongside Thomas à Kempis: ‘I would far rather feel remorse than know how to define it.’ ”
 
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In memory of John Hawkins, agent and friend
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There are things we can't undo, but perhaps there is a kind of constructive remorse that could transform regrettable acts into something of service to life.
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“Flora’s simpleminded, you must have realized that by now.”

“I think you are confusing simpleminded with simple-hearted. . . . When there’s no deceit or malice in your heart . . . That’s why Flora is so rare, it’s just her heart she offers, with none of the sludge to wade through.”
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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. Their relationship and its fallout, played against a backdrop of a lost America will haunt Helen for the rest of her life.… (more)

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