Flora and Ulysses is a fantasy novel, which features many other genres in it. A poetry-writing, flying squirrel or a super-vacuum cleaner can only exist in a fantasy world. But the book also has some sides of family drama, romance, action and comedy.
Flora‘s family plays a big role in the story. One of the reasons why all the action happens is because Flora thinks she isn’t loved. The multifaceted topic of love is addressed not only in the growing father-daughter relationship that develops, but also the possible romantic relationship with William Spiver.
In the beginning, Flora does not seem to fall for this temporarily blind, strange boy. She is rather annoyed than excited about his appearance. But over the course of the story, she starts to think about him and trust him more and more and in the end even wants to hold his hand. Even though Flora claims to hate romance, she actually longs for love. In William she has found a companion, who understands her because they have some commonalities. Both are misfits, both have to deal with isolation, both are interested in unusual things and both are looking for acceptance. As friends or as even more than just friends, the two seem to be a perfect match.
Of course, action is the fundamental characteristic of a superhero story. And this is certainly not lacking in Flora and Ulysses. Fights against cats, a kidnapping and a flying squirrel are just some examples. But there are some funny moments, too. The comedy side is mainly assisted by the characteristics of the characters. Each character has its own oddity. Flora’s dad, for example, always says: “I’m George Buckman. How do you do?” – even in inappropriate situations. Or there’s William Spiver, who claims all the time that he suffers from temporary blindness, although it is obvious that he doesn’t.
The novel’s central conceit and the writing style support this humour. A run-of-the-mill suburban setting is turned into an epic battlefield where the forces of good and evil clash in exaggerated scenes: the superhero, Ulysses (a squirrel) “vanquishes” his mortal enemy (a cat) in what becomes larger-than-life heroism. In another scene a lamp is taken hostage. In this way, what could have been a rather mundane story of a young suburban girl, suffering through adolescence and the separation of her parents, takes on fantastical, whimsical, and heroic proportions.