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3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  2,070 ratings  ·  434 reviews
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...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Bloomsbury USA (first published January 1st 2013)
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To paraphrase Colm Tóibín, skilled writers explore not the spaces crowded with words and stories, characters and events; they explore the empty spaces, the quiet that most of us seek to fill with the noise of life.

In her gently menacing Flora Gail Godwin creates a character of the empty space. It hovers just beyond the threshold of every doorway at the sprawling One Thousand Sunset Drive and in the dense North Carolina woods that may someday swallow whole the lodge and its remaining inhabitants...more
I was walking in the pool lane and ran into Charlotte,a summer friend. We asked after each other. We hadn't seen each other for 10 months, and then asked after our only daughters, girls around 30. Then we got around to books. Each of us had a recommendation . Mine was Flora, by Gail Godwin. Every reader, calls Godwin an old friend. We all have a favorite Godwin novel.
I was only 70 percent done this afternoon, but I recommended Flora. I said, "I think you'll like Flora, but I don't know what happ...more
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” For 10-year-old Helen, these words ring true. Living in North Carolina during the tail end of World War II, Helen is devastated by losses – the early death of her mother, the sudden death of her beloved grandmother Nonie, a friend’s diagnosis of polio,another friend's move, and her father’s decision to go to Oak Ridge to engage in secret war work.

In this compulsively readable book, Hel...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Gail Godwin is astonishingly good at character development, and this novel is no exception. The plot, however, stumbles along forever before flopping spectacularly.
Patrice Hoffman
The novel Flora, by Gail Godwin, is a first-person narrative by an author, haunted by the summer she spent with her older cousin. It was the summer Helen Anstruther's grandmother died, her father was called to work on a top-secret job during World War II, and a small outbreak of polio has her captive in the house with Flora. This novel is about regret, trajedy, guilt, and a young girl's journey into adulthood.

Helen lets us know from the beginning that this novel is not going to be one of those...more
This book receives a three star rating from me. Although I liked it and don't regret reading it, I wasn't "wowed" by it and I feel no urge to rush back and read it again. The biggest issue I had with the book is one of personal preference - I prefer novels with a more engaging plot rather than character pieces. This book tends to drag and although it is clear to the reader that something is coming, that something comes far too late in the story and is practically skimmed over.

The other giant is...more
This is a coming of age novel set in North Carolina in the summer of 1945. The narrator, Helen Anstruther, from the vantage point of old age, tells the story of that formative summer when she was approaching her eleventh birthday on August 6. Helen’s mother died seven years earlier and she was left in the care of her father and paternal grandmother (Nonie); however, Nonie’s recent death and the departure of her father for war work in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, result in Helen’s being left in the care...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I was so intrigued by the characterization in the first few pages that I just had to read this book. It’s short and I read it very quickly, but in the end it was something of a disappointment.

Like many first-person narratives, this story is told by an old woman, Helen, looking back on her childhood: specifically, the summer of 1945, when she was ten and left for the summer in the care of her 22-year-old cousin, Flora. Readers are alerted from the first page that the summer will end in tragedy, a...more
Where do I start?? Go up above and read the description of the book. There you go, you have read most of the book. The only significant event in the book happens at the end of the story. Throughout the book Helen acts like a selfish pretentious little brat who acts like 2 year old when she doesn't get her way or when something happens that didn't go her way. She spends a majority of the time making Flora out to be some simpleminded hillbilly who is dumber than a bag of rocks.

I didn't find the bo...more
Maya Panika
It is 1945, and Helen, a spoiled, selfish, self-centred, snobbish, deeply unpleasant ten year old girl is forced to spend her summer at home, trapped by an outbreak of polio. Her father is away working on the atomic bomb so her cousin Flora arrives from Alabama to care for her. Flora is delightful, kind and thoughtful and Helen instantly despises her, dismissing her as an idiot country bumpkin. But then there are very few people Helen doesn't feel are beneath her: the only exceptions - aside fro...more
One Summer

I read her Godwin’s first ten or so books right as they came out but somehow got out of that habit. After reading “Flora” all I can think is, “What was I thinking?” Flora is set at the end of World War II in North Carolina where ten year old Helen, who has just lost her beloved grandmother, is left alone with her twenty-two year old cousin Flora who’s acting as Helen’s babysitter. Her father is away in Tennessee at Oak Ridge hard at work on war work. Helen and Flora are isolated on the...more
Betsy McTiernan
I used to be a big fan of Godwin, but somehow I let her recent novels slip by me until I read my sister-in-law's review of Flora. She says: "I was left with a fine pencil drawing of a young girl
[Helen] who thinks too much about appearances and an even finer image of a young woman who thinks nothing of images and concerns herself only with love and nourishing those around her with food and bits of herself which she serves unselfishly, in generous portions." I think this is a perfect description o...more
Rob Slaven
In a not totally unfamiliar preamble, I received this book through the courtesy of the publisher, Bloomsbury, by simply responding to an advert in the Shelf Awareness newsletter. Despite this kind consideration, my candid thoughts appear below.

To summarize, it's 1944 and Helen, our protagonist, has recently lost her grandmother and so her cousin Flora has come for the summer to watch over her while her father goes off to do secret work for the government. In those two short months much is learne...more
Mar 03, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Tom Colicchio
Shelves: fiction

This novel does not in any way "evoke shades of The Turn of the Screw" as the blurb claims, which was why I had plucked it from the library shelf. There is nothing dark about it, but there is a tear-jerking twist.

The novel is told from the first person perspective of 10-year-old Helen, whose father is away for the summer of 1945 working on weapons development. Her mother died when she was three and her beloved live-in grandmother died not long in the past, so 22-year-old cousin Flora is brought...more
Gail Godwin is in my stable of favorite authors. I try to read everything that she's written because she's a good story-teller and the lives of her characters seem familiar to me. In Flora, a twenty-two year old from Alabama visits a neglected mountaintop home in North Carolina for a summer in order to care for a ten-year old girl, Helen, whose father is off doing war work in Oak Ridge Tennessee. The days pass dully, especially after the two are become quarantined on the ridge due to a polio sca...more
Gail Godwin has long been one of my favorite authors and Flora is a fine example of why. All the main characters seem so real it's hard to imagine they're actually fictional, but instead of making them prosaic their fullness, including their flaws, makes them both fascinating and sympathetic, and it's a tense pleasure inhabiting their world. The story's time and place--an isolated mountain home during the final months of WWII--are also well realized and the book held me enthralled.

The story is t...more
Dale Harcombe
I’ve long been a fan of Gail Godwin’s work. This novel took me a little longer to warm to largely, I suspect, because I am not a big fan of coming of age stories. But it was Gail Godwin, so I kept reading. By the end I was thoroughly involved in the story of Helen Anstruther and the summer spent with Flora, the twenty two year old cousin who came to care for ten year old Helen while her father was away on a secret mission. It is three quarters of the way through the novel before the reader finds...more
10 year old Helen Anstruther is living in a dilapidated old house at the top of a rutted driveway in Mountain City, North Carolina. Her mother died when she was three and she’s just lost her beloved grandmother, Nonie, to a heart attack. Her father needs to find someone to stay with Helen while he goes to Oak Ridge, Tennessee to contribute to an important but mysterious project related to the war. 22 year old cousin Flora is recruited and comes to spend the summer of 1945 with Helen.

Helen is a p...more
In the summer of 1945, the end of WWII, 10-year old Helen Anstruther is in for yet another change in her young life. Her mother died when she was only 3, and Nonie who cared for her since her mother's death, has recently passed away as well. Her father is still in the picture, the principal of a high school in North Carolina. He drinks too much and isn't someone you could call a nurturer. This summer he will be away to work on a secret project for the government. In his absence, he has hired "Fl...more
This nicely told coming of age novel is about a almost twelve-year-old girl living in North Carolina who is put under the guardianship of her older cousin for part of one summer (1945). I've read Ms. Godwin's fiction and heard her give a reading and talk. Her Southern characters and settings appeal to me since I'm also from the region. There is a historic subplot of the Manhattan Project and Oak Ridge, TN. The narrator is the snarky type of young girl who still has a lot of things to learn about...more
This one really grew on me. Like any good novel of character as you continue to read the characters of Helen, her mother, and grandmother grow and develope. What at first seems like narrowmindedness and snobbishness turns out to be deeper feelings as young women try to outdistance their past. The character of Flora is true of heart, but not so simple as Helen believes.
During one pivotal summer toward the end of WWII, ten-year-old Helen, whose mother died when she was three, is still grieving over the loss of her grandmother (Nonie). When her father goes away to work for the summer, she is left in the charge of a cousin, Flora, from Alabama. Flora was Helen's mother's cousin, and often spoke highly of her. But at twenty-two, there is something very simple about Flora. Helen thought of her as simple-minded, and often bemoaned Flora's tendency to spill her guts...more
A book about one pivotal summer in a 10 year old’s life could easily be a book geared more for adolescents. But this is Gail Godwin so it is an immensely readable adult book.

Helen is the 10 year old who is spending the summer of 1945 being taken care of by her cousin, Flora, while her father is away doing ‘secret’ work during World War II. It is written with the benefit of hindsight when Helen is in her 70’s.

Foreshadowing (and the flyleaf and any other review!) lets you know ahead of time that...more
Claudia Putnam
So glad to learn there's a new Gail Godwin novel out and about. It doesn't disappoint.

This is a story about how a girl locked in a world of pretense is forced--through tragedy that would qualify for the definition a Godwin character supplied in I think The Finishing School--to develop the kind of insight and depth she will need in order to become the writer who can reflect back on these events. We don't see her growing up to become that writer. We see a little girl who is quite smart, quite gif...more
Diane S.
3.5 This is a novel about regret. a woman looking back at a summer, when she was ten, that had a horrible end. Helen's mother had died when she was three, so she was raised by her father and his mother, Nonnie. They live in a small town in North Carolina in a house the had once been a home for people with physical or mental injuries that were not quite ready to face the world. They called them the recoverers and Helen had grown up with these stories and others. When her beloved Nonnie dies, and...more
Well, I must admit that the title itself is what initially attracted me to this book. I have a fondness for the name (thanks, Disney’s Sleeping Beauty) - and its premise as a coming-of-age story set during the tail end of World War II sounded promising, too. In the summer of 1945, young Helen (our narrator) is a child isolated by tragedy - her mother died when she was young, her alcoholic father pays little attention to her and her much-loved grandmother has suddenly passed away. Her father send...more
Gail Godwin once again proves herself a master storyteller with her latest novel, Flora. Helen is ten years old in 1944 when her grandmother and primary caregiver passes away unexpectedly. Her father is expected in Oak Ridge, Tennessee to do secret War work for the entire summer and calls upon twenty two year old Flora, Helen’s deceased mother’s first cousin, to be Helen’s guardian. Flora, a recent graduate looking for placement as a teacher in Alabama, is not nearly as worldly as Helen. Helen i...more
Eleven year old Helen is cared for by her deceased mother's cousin Flora, a 22-yer old from rural Alabama during the summer when Helen's father is working away from home. Helen is heading into adolescence with the additional burden of recent loss: her beloved grandmother died right before Easter that year. She's also lost friends. One is too ill; another moves away but not before she tells Helen how badly she has behaved. Flora is naive, generous, self-effacing, much too talkative and eager to b...more
While I enjoy Gail Godwin's writing , I was just so anxious for the book to end . It was in some ways reminiscent of Atonement with a young child not understanding things as they really are or people who they really are and making mistakes that can't be changed . For me it was not a gripping read .
A glowing review by John Irving graced the back cover of the copy of Flora I read. Perhaps the expectations created by my reading that review diminished the pleasure I took in the book. Certainly I knew that remorse permeates the narration, and I felt a trembling foreshadowing with each turn of the page. The final act of the drama was thus a slight letdown. However, I appreciate the way Godwin develops her characters Flora and Helen, each so real and believable, and the way she details daily li...more
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Gail Kathleen Godwin is an American novelist and short story writer. She has published one non-fiction work, two collections of short stories, and eleven novels, three of which have been nominated for the National Book Award and five of which have made the New York Times Bestseller List.

Godwin's body of work has garnered many honors, including three National Book Award nominations, a Guggenheim Fe...more
More about Gail Godwin...
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“Remorse went out of fashion around the same time that “Stop feeling guilty,” and “You’re too hard on yourself,” and “You need to love yourself more” came into fashion.” 1 likes
“She was her steady self again, the one about whom Nonie had said, "I admire that woman. Despite all her adversities, Beryl Jones manages to stay in control her days.” 0 likes
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