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The Turn of the Screw / The Aspern Papers

by Henry James

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,359219,577 (3.73)45
A young woman arrives at a large country house. Her job is to look after the two children who live there, but she soon discovers that there is something very strange about both the house and the children. The longer she stays, the more she feels that the two children are in danger - or is itthat the children are the danger, and the person in danger is herself?… (more)

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» See also 45 mentions

English (19)  Spanish (2)  All languages (21)
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
Loved this story!!!! And it was a perfect addition to my Halloween reading. This was one of the few older “horror” novels that actually gave me chills. Modern novels in that genre have made it difficult in my opinion to feel frightened by the older, more tame, reads. ( )
  BookishHooker | Dec 16, 2019 |
No one seems to do gothic horror and be able to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up as well as Authors from this era; whether they are hinting at insanity or embracing it and giving it coffee, this novella has to rank up there with The Yellow Wallpaper. When the reader first embarks into this tale it would seem the perfect accompaniment to a cold winter night and a cosy fire place, after all it’s short in length and reads fairly quickly if you can come to grips with the style in which it is written, but don’t make any assumptions about this book.

The main character is also the narrator for the tale, and the reader sees the whole sequence of event unfold through her eyes. In the main lead, the reader is introduced to a character who definitely does not know herself and shows no signs of getting to know herself as the tale progresses. As we view the world through her eyes the reader is her companion as she descends into madness; or does she, and this is where one of the many twists enter the tale and have the reader wondering. At times I felt sorry for this character, at others she just grated on me to no end, this I put down to the time period in which the book is set and not the fact the fact that the character was badly written. In fact none of the characters in this novella are badly written, and each brings their own flaws and traits to play as the storyline unfolds.

This book is definitely ‘old school’ horror genre, rather than being in your face gory and ghastly, an atmosphere is created in this novella that is suggestive and lends itself perfectly to being able to scare the stripes off a zebra. Eerie and creepy descriptives are used to full effect in this tale and, although only a mere 120 pages long, I found myself getting up and turning a light on part way through. All the requirements of a truly good ghost story are included in the covers of this novella, and the fact that the readers imagination is able to hold full sway over the way in which they react to the occurrences. I have to say this is one of the better pieces of writing by this Author that I have read, and if it had been a few pages longer it would have received a full 5 thumbs review.

If you are looking for a truly good ghost story to fill your holiday season, but not overtake it completely then I would highly recommend you read this novella.

Originally reviewed on: http://catesbooknuthut.com/2014/12/08/review-the-turn-of-the-screw-henry-james/

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
( )
  TheAcorn | Nov 8, 2019 |
James wrote some of the best dark fiction of his day, and these two are, for me, his standouts. Elegant, twisted, chilling--this is rich stuff, and like a rich dessert, it forces you to slow down and savor every bite. ( )
  MichaelBarsa | Dec 17, 2017 |
Two very different stories, but I enjoyed each for its own reasons, though I haven't read much if any Henry James before. I kept hearing that "The Turn of the Screw" was a good ghost story, so I had to give it a try. I didn't enjoy it as much as I do those of M.R. James and others, but it was fine. "The Aspern Papers" was good and creepy too, but I don't know that I'll go out in search of more Henry James to read. ( )
  JBD1 | Feb 16, 2017 |
The first novella in this thin volume containing two of Henry James's works is regarded as a so-called classic, the story of a young governess engaged to look after two orphaned children in a country house in England. When she first meets the children, Miles, aged 10, and Flora, aged 8, she is very much taken with them, and she is bewildered to learn that Miles has been expelled from his school. Events take a supernatural turn when she sees a man on the top of the tower who answers to the description of the former valet of the master of the house, Peter Quint, who has since died; not only that, but she also catches glimpses of a lady in a black dress, whom the housekeeper Mrs Grose, based on her description, identifies as the former governess Miss Jessel, who has also since passed on. The governess becomes convinced that the spirits are in secret communication with the children and have an unholy influence over them.

Years ago I saw the 1961 film The Innocents, based on The Turn of the Screw, and was always curious what the story was like in its original literary form. While the film as I recall it is very unambiguous in its interpretation that the children are indeed possessed by the spirits of the deceased valet and governess, the book is much more so, something I did not expect. Told in the style of a frame narrative, the first-person account penned by the governess is read out to an assembly of guests years later, and what emerges for me was the narrative of someone who was mentally unbalanced, and we only have the governess's word for it that the children were able to see and communicate with the spirits, as the writing itself is ambiguous on this point and the children never admit to seeing or hearing anything out of the ordinary, thus turning the story into an account by an unreliable narrator for me and elevating it from a boring and rather tame ghost story to something more interesting and deserving of reflection.

I did not get on with the character of the unnamed governess at all: I thought her conceited, needy, paranoid and hysterical, and the laboriousness and convolutedness of the prose in which the account is written as an outward sign of her disturbed mental state. At no stage did the narrative become more than mildly tense, and the interest is more in the psychological deportment of the governess and the children than in any horror attributed to it since the novella's publication. The ending, though anticipated by my having watched the film, is sudden and unexpected, and leaves the reader with unanswered questions as to what really happened.

The second novella is set in Venice, Italy, and tells of the frustrated attempts of an American editor to gain access to the private papers of Juliana Bordereau, former muse to the famous poet Jeffrey Aspern, in the hope of publishing previously unknown correspondence by the poet. Also written in the first person, the editor gains access under false pretences to the villa where Miss Bordereau lives in seclusion with only her middle-aged niece for company. On the very few occasions that the editor lays eyes on her, Juliana appeared to me like a shadow of Dickens's Miss Havisham, but that is really the only interesting thing that can be said of the story. I was repeatedly astonished how 80 pages could be spent without saying anything at all, as nothing of any significance takes place until the last 20 or so pages.

Reading the narrative felt like wading through treacle and I more than once toyed with the idea of giving up, and only the thought that there might be a twist at the end stopped me; there is a twist of sorts, not unexpected, and resembling the one in The Turn of the Screw – though written ten years earlier – in that the pursuit of the truth is abruptly cut short. Not once did I feel engaged with the unnamed narrator as he belittles the younger Miss Bordereau and compliments himself on his perceived cleverness, and I thought he deserved what he got at the end.

With a rating of three stars for The Turn of the Screw and one star for The Aspern Papers, this volume scores a measly two stars in my opinion. ( )
  passion4reading | Dec 22, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Henry Jamesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Curtis, AnthonyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
The Turn of the Screw
THE STORY HAD HELD US, round the fire, sufficiently breathless, but except the obvious remark that it was gruesome, as on Christmas Eve in an old house a strange tale should essentially be, I remember no comment uttered till somebody happened to note it as the only case he had met in which such a visitation had fallen on a child.
The Aspern Papers
I had taken Mrs. Prest into my conficence; without her intruce I should have made but little advance, for the fruitful idea in the whole business dropped from her friendly lips.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This work consists of both The Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers; do not combine it with either individual work.
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Haiku summary
Such lovely little
children – but hark!, I think they
commune with spirits!
An American
in Venice tries to obtain
dead poet's papers.

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