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 lovely tales of summer fun and that some sort of awakening is going to come about by a woman she describes as being layer-less, simple-minded. As Helen and Flora traipse around the huge home that was once a home for recoverers, Helen begins to find herself. She is also confronted with the things that others don't like about her such as the aire of superiority she walks around with constantly.
Godwin delivers a character driven novel that kept me interested until the end. Characters that make the reader love and hate them are the best rounded. Helen is a well-rounded character who I often disliked because of her brattyness yet she won me over at times with her intelligence. Flora was just sunshine in a bottle and represents everything Helen isn't. The need for strong characters is necessary in a novel that primarily takes place in one setting and Godwin excels at delivering on this front.
Overall, Flora is a great summer read that I know fans of Gail Godwin will enjoy. This period novel will remind readers of the summer that changed their lives for the good (or bad). Like Helen, we will wish for a do-over or some sort of try-again in order to get things right; To show appreciation to someone who's only crime was having a simple-heart. The occasions that haunt us help make us who we are today.***