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The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Turn of the Screw (1898)

by Henry James, Diana Stewart (Adapter)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,2241341,179 (3.46)622
  1. 61
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    The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons (sturlington)
  8. 11
    Old People and The Things That Pass by Louis Couperus (pingdjip)
    pingdjip: A Dutch classic. Like The Turn of the Screw it's about restraining, silencing, suppressing a truth that nevertheless manifests itself in subtle ways. But unlike The Turn of the Screw it's actually a very good read.
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    WSB7: Appearances also arise, and many more turns of the screw.

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Showing 1-5 of 120 (next | show all)
I don't know why I was so irritated this time round, but I was. It was a chore to read. The writing seemed so roundabout, with sentences wandering hopelessly. Several of the premises didn't ring true and I felt no love for the governess or the children. And the ending...did her young charge, Miles the boy, die?!? What then happened his sister? Was Flora never to return? Was the governess discharged? Who was the man she "loved" as hinted at in the beginning of this tale by Douglas? The questions go on and on. Many people have stipulated that [The Turn of the Screw]'s "very ambiguity, its resistance to any final formulation in terms of the realistic or actual...is a major source of its strength." I would disagree. Most unsatisfying. ( )
  Berly | Feb 16, 2015 |
After reading The Turn of the Screw by Henry James all I can say is "Huh”? I was looking forward to reading this old fashioned ghost story so I wrapped myself up in a quilt and curled up in my comfy chair all ready for the chills I thought this ghost story would bring, and indeed at first it was everything I hoped for. But the ambiguous ending spoiled this story for me. I wanted resolution not confusion.

The story of a governess who slowly comes to realize that her charges are being haunted by the corrupt former valet, Quint and ex-governess, Miss Jessel is a fascinating one. The story builds slowly, and by the time the governess realizes that the children know full well of these ghostly apparitions, we, the readers have become aware that Quint may well have sexually assaulted the young boy, Miles. The young girl, Flora, seems to be stalked by Miss Jessel, the former governess who was involved in an affair with Quint. Eventually Flora is removed from the house and sent to be with her uncle. This leaves Miles and the current governess to confront Quint, which they do and instead of the resolution that I hoped I would find, I was left feeling quite confused over what just happened.

A number of questions about the children and their safety springs to mind, but for me the biggest question was did all this really happen or was this simply a product of the governess’ psychotic imagination. The story was appropriately chilling and certainly creepy enough, but I would rather have had an ending that I understood instead of all these questions, but perhaps this was exactly how Henry James wanted to leave his readers. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Feb 7, 2015 |
This is one of those books that I hadn’t read despite it being mentioned pretty much every time someone called for a good ghost story. During our latest winter storm I decided it would be a good time to dive into it and for the most part I really liked it. It had excellent pacing and the story was trim, not a lot of extraneous detail. There’s the set up, which is folks gathered around a fire to hear a scary story, the prologue which puts our protagonist in place and then we’re off. Strangely the tale just ends and we never get back into the room with the fire. I wonder if James forgot or his editor or what, but those people never show up again. Kind of sloppy if you ask me.

And there’s that ending. Wow. It came on extra suddenly for me because I read it as a Project Gutenberg ebook which has a lot of publishing info at the back so it’s hard to tell exactly where the book ends. Is it me, or does everyone have to read the ending three times to get it straight? And by straight I mean bendy and weird and what?

Spoilers on the move -

I knew it was a psychological horror story going in and that there might be more to the story than what’s on the surface. I don’t want to go so far as to declare an unreliable narrator, but it’s close. Even if what Jane perceived wasn’t real, she believed that it was and to me, that’s not an unreliable narrator, merely a fallible one. Are there the ghosts of servants past haunting the old pile, or is Jane crazy? Does Miles have some sort of symbiotic connection to Peter Quint? Does getting Flora away from the place break hers to Miss Jessel? There are no concrete answers. Instead, James relies on the reader’s interpretation of some pretty unspecific information. For example, just why are these ghosts so evil and is their evil different now than it was in life? Both are branded as villains, but nothing is specifically stated about what they did exactly. It’s hinted that there was an illicit affair going on between them, very improper, and somehow because the children were aware of it, the knowledge corrupted them. Did that lead to Miles’s unknown crime that got him kicked out of school? And speaking of unfathomable and unresolved...what’s with the uncle’s condition that Jane never contact him about the kids? That’s just weird. The whole thing is weird and that’s what makes it fun.

The actual writing, I should warn you, is convoluted. James is fond of the very long sentence populated by many, many commas. At first it was a job getting into the rhythm of his writing, but reading out loud helped, something I find useful for older novels. As you might have guessed, if you’re the type of reader who needs everything explained and tied up neatly, The Turn of the Screw isn’t the ghost story for you. ( )
2 vote Bookmarque | Feb 2, 2015 |
A compelling psychological novel with ghosts, this story is both creepy and intriguing. As always, James’ first interest is in the psychological relationships between his characters, in this case a naïve young governess, unnamed, and her two young pupils, Miles and Flora, at an isolated Essex mansion. The governess is charmed by the children’s apparent good natures and beauty, and ascribes to them an innocence that seems idealized, but completely typical of the late Victorian thinking about children. (And James himself had no children of his own to compare the ideal with.)
The governess soon discovers that the children have a dark side, which seems to be associated with their previous governess, Miss Jessel, and her lover, the valet, Peter Quint. She and the children see these dead beings, although no one else in the house seems to do so. The housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, however, knows things are not right with the children. What is interesting is that the governess is unwilling to confront the children directly with her believe that they are happily communing with the evil dead for fear of finding out that they are not as innocent as they appear. Not only would this disturb her illusions about the children, but she would then have to deal with their choice, and she has no idea how to do so. As long as she can, she prefers to live with the illusion of goodness rather than have to deal with evil. That’s a situation that’s easy enough to identify with.
But of course it leaves her vulnerable, and the children know it. They use her unwillingness to confront them to manipulate her into going along with their continuing relationship with their former guides. Because she won’t admit there is anything wrong, she cannot object to their play, even when they seem to be meeting with their evil partners. She tries to protect them, but they or the ghosts can see what she is doing and find ways around her care. When finally she is forced to act, she finds that the evil is more powerful than her attempt to overcome it.
This all takes place in the first-person narrative of the governess, so she is describing what she sees and how she feels. She feels that she is being manipulated by the children, but she has no way to know what they are really thinking. She reads their looks and glances and reacts to them, but as readers we know only her interpretation of what she sees. She sees shadows and figures, and to her they appear as the ghosts of the Miss Jessel and Peter Quint. She thinks that the ghosts are manipulating the children, but it sometimes appears that the children are the manipulators. If it isn’t all in her own head.
The picture of the innocence of the children, their good breeding, manners and charm as a mask hiding their corrupted true nature gives the story an extra layer of intrigue, one that James also explores in his other writing.
What I like here is the psychology of the relationships and James’ ability to portray their shifting dynamics. At times, the governess tries to take charge, but loses control when one of the children shows that he or she knows that is going on, or suggests that the governess has shown bad judgement. The governess accepts the shifting power and loses it. This is a theme that James uses in other novels, and through it James illustrates how subtle social power is exercised. Of course, his characters could reject the social conventions that are at work, but that would be inconceivable to them. In this way, the ghosts are a bit of an excuse. They set up a situation in which the characters work out their relationships, and the extremity of the situation makes the dynamics unavoidable. But the relationship are created by the social situation and how the characters act in it. That, I think, is what interests James, and it’s what I read his books for. ( )
  rab1953 | Jan 30, 2015 |
Haunting and haunted and ambiguous. Don't read this for a pat ending. ( )
  Kelley.Logan | Jan 16, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (90 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Henry Jamesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stewart, DianaAdaptermain authorall editionsconfirmed
Benjamin, VanessaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buckley, RamónTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cialente, FaustaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fyhr, MattiasPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hazenberg, AnneliesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Klingberg, OlaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lydis, MarietteIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Van Doren, CarlIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The story had held us, round the fire, sufficiently breathless, but except the obvious remark that it ws gruesome, as, on Christmas Eve in an old house, a strange tale should essentially be, I remember no comment uttered till somebody happened to say that it was the only case he had met in which such a visitation had fallen on a child.
She was a magnificent monument to the blessing of a want of imagination...
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Book description
A very young woman's first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate ...

Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows - silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children. Seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls.

But worse - much worse - the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil.
For they want the talking dead as badly as the dead want them.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0486266842, Paperback)

The story starts conventionally enough with friends sharing ghost stories 'round the fire on Christmas Eve. One of the guests tells about a governess at a country house plagued by supernatural visitors. But in the hands of Henry James, the master of nuance, this little tale of terror is an exquisite gem of sexual and psychological ambiguity. Only the young governess can see the ghosts; only she suspects that the previous governess and her lover are controlling the two orphaned children (a girl and a boy) for some evil purpose. The household staff don't know what she's talking about, the children are evasive when questioned, and the master of the house (the children's uncle) is absent. Why does the young girl claim not to see a perfectly visible woman standing on the far side of the lake? Are the children being deceptive, or is the governess being paranoid? By leaving the questions unanswered, The Turn of Screw generates spine-tingling anxiety in its mesmerized readers.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:13 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

One of literature's most gripping ghost stories depicts the sinister transformation of 2 innocent children into flagrant liars and hypocrites. Elegantly told tale of unspoken horror and psychological terror creates what few stories in literature have been able to do ? a complete feeling of dread and uncertainty.… (more)

» see all 27 descriptions

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16 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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Coffeetown Press

An edition of this book was published by Coffeetown Press.

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Urban Romantics

2 editions of this book were published by Urban Romantics.

Editions: 1909175811, 190917582X

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