Flora (Godwin) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
Witty and moving.... The incidents of this plot are daringly few: A boring summer during which nothing happens is a challenge most novelists should avoid. Godwin, though, has the psychological sensitivity to make these still, humid days seem fraught with impending consequence.... 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.... Her recollection of that tragic summer, turned over and over in her mind for years, is something between a search for understanding and a mournful confession. But finally it's a testament to the power of storytelling to bring solace when none other is possible.
Ron Charles - Washington Post


Flora is Godwin at her best, a compelling story about Helen’s growth of consciousness told with fearless candor and the poignant wisdom of hindsight.
Boston Globe


Flora is a tightly focused, painful and eventually eruptive novel. Its ruminative, sometimes regretful narrator explores the complex heart of a child, showing us that it's not inevitably a sweet, gooey thing. It can be, as well, a shuddering volcanic island with but a single haunted inhabitant.
Christian Science Monitor


On the surface, Gail Godwin’s luminous Flora is a quiet, simple novel about a few weeks spent in near isolation in the North Carolina mountains in the summer of 1945. Under the surface, however, run currents connecting the lives of the two main characters to those of dozens of others, present and especially past.
Columbus Dispatch


Gail Godwin’s Flora sneaks up on you. The premise is small, but ambitiously so in the 'small, square, two inches of ivory' sense that Jane Austen used to describe her novelistic palette . . . . [Godwin]draws out the haunting Big Questions — loss, regret, family bonds — as the novel progresses, and then she leaves them, smartly and humbly, for the reader to answer.
Minneapolis Star Tribune


Remorse may be the defining emotion for our narrator, Helen, but Godwin the writer has nothing to regret: Flora is an elegant little creeper of a story.
Maureen Corrigan - NPR's Fresh Air


In a coming-of-age novel as exquisitely layered and metaphorical as a good peom, Godwin explores the long-term fallout from abandonment and betrayal, the persistence of remorse and the possibility of redemption
MORE magazine


Narrator Helen Anstruther, “going on eleven,” is the relentlessly charismatic and wry star of this stirring and wondrous novel from Godwin.... When her father leaves to do “secret work for World War II” in neighboring Tennessee... [Fora] is left in the care of 22-year-old...relative.... Godwin’s thoughtful portrayal of their boredom, desires, and the eventual heartbreak of their summer underscores the impossible position of children, who are powerless against the world and yet inherit responsibility for its agonies.
Publishers Weekly


(Starred review.) A superbly crafted, stunning novel by three-time National Book Award award finalist Godwin (A Mother and Two Daughters), this is an unforgettable, heartbreaking tale of disappointment, love, and tragedy. Highly recommended.
Library Journal


Godwin, celebrated for her literary finesse, presents a classic southern tale galvanic with decorous yet stabbing sarcasm and jolting tragedy.... Godwin’s under-your-skin characters are perfectly realized, and the held-breath plot is consummately choreographed. But the wonder of this incisive novel of the endless repercussions of loss and remorse at the dawn of the atomic age is how subtly Godwin laces it with exquisite insights into secret family traumas, unspoken sexuality, class and racial divides, and the fallout of war while unveiling the incubating mind of a future writer.
Booklist


In the summer of 1945, 10-year-old Helen....needs someone to stay with her while [her father] does "more secret work for World War II" in Oak Ridge, Tenn. So he asks her mother's 22-year-old cousin, Flora,...[who] seems like a dumb hick to snobbish little Helen...a thoroughly unappealing narrator. But as Godwin skillfully peels back layers of family history...we see that Helen is mean because she's terrified.... Unsparing yet compassionate; a fine addition to Godwin's long list of first-rate fiction bringing 19th-century richness of detail and characterization to the ambiguities of modern life.
Kirkus Reviews




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