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The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Turn of the Screw (1898)

by Henry James

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4,1041211,228 (3.46)563
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    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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The Turn of the Screw by Henry James; (4*)

I certainly enjoyed this mildly spooky Victorian gothic tale. And I found that I quite like the writing style of Henry James.
The story is about an orphaned brother & sister taken in by an uncle or some such male relation. He is a very minor player withing the scheme of the book as he hires a governess/tutor to care for the children at his country manse. The one stipulation upon her hiring is that she not bother him with anything to do with the children.
When the governess arrives she finds that the male child is away at boarding school so she just has the girl child at first. She finds the little girl beautiful & angelic in every way. She is bright and quick to learn, has lovely manners, is obedient and the governess enjoys her very much.
But soon the little boy is returned to the home, having been quitted from the school never to return and the governess & housekeeper (who have become friends) are never to know specifically why. The child never speaks of it so all they can do is wonder. He has the same positive traits as his sister and in the beginning all is well and everyone appears to be happy. "Appears to be" are the key words here.
For we find that the owner of the manse & their employer had a houseman who has died and that the previous governess has died as well. There begin to appear apparitions of both of these persons: The governess to the little girl albeit the new governess can also see her and the houseman to the little boy with the governess able to see his apparition as well.
Thus begins the tug of war between the governess & the housekeeper against the two apparitions who want the children.
I thought this a very good though short novella & I can highly recommend it. It is my first Henry James and I found myself seeking out others of his work immediately upon finishing this one. ( )
2 vote rainpebble | Oct 28, 2014 |
An inexperienced young woman is hired to become the governess of two small children near the town of Bly in Victorian England. The children have no parents and it is their uncle who hires her. She is informed that she is not to contact him at all u less there is a good reason. The two children are Miles and Flora. Soon, two ghosts appear, Quint and Jessel, who were the former caregivers of the children.
It never becomes clear if it is the governess alone who sees these ghosts or if the children do as well. Who is the crazy one... Who knows. ( )
  MaggieFlo | Oct 22, 2014 |
I really wanted to find this scary, but it's just too Victorian for me to take it seriously. (Oh, the scandal of a governess having a romantic fling! Oh, the horrors of young children keeping secrets from their elders! *sigh*) ( )
  jen.e.moore | Oct 20, 2014 |
I like the ambiguity of the ghosts, it is the redeeming aspect of the story. Otherwise, I am convinced that woman is crazy and much of the dialogue seemed annoyingly unrealistic. "oh you know you know!" I guess no one could speak plainly back then? It is a quick read. I gave four insead of three stars because I think some aspects just didn't translate over time and the book deserves some credit for originaity when written. ( )
  CassandraT | Oct 10, 2014 |
Review posted over at The Bibliophile Chronicles!

Henry James’s paranormal tale of ghosts and evil, will leave you chilled to the bone.


Jane has just landed her first job, she is being sent to the country to be a governess to two orphaned children. On being interviewed by the children’s uncle, he tells her never to contact him, on any circumstance. Despite the strange request, Jane takes the job and on reaching Bly she meets the two hauntingly beautiful children - Flora and Miles. But everything is not as it seems in Bly - the previous governess left suddenly and died and then there's Peter Quint, who also worked in the house, but has mysteriously disappeared. Jane tries to uncover the the truth behind the horrors of Bly, as well as protect the supposedly innocent children.


This is a particularly eerie one. This is my second time reading The Turn of the Screw, and it gets no less creepy the second time. A second reading also does not give the answers that you so desperately seek at the end of the story. The Turn of the Screw is a mystery, it leads you in circles and you never truly find out what the horrors of Bly are. The narrator Jane, is a completely unreliable one. Is she mad? Is she being terrorised by the ghosts of Peter Quint and her predecessor Miss Jessel? Is she just hysterical? Is she doing this in hope the children’s uncle will come to visit? There are so many options. Not only that the two children are Omen worthy in their creepiness, they seem so sweet and innocent, but are definitely not all that they seem.

It’s a pretty short book - some ninety pages, but it is by no means a quick read. Much of the story is in what is not said, the gaps and silences in which no character actually speaks. It can feel a bit laborious, but it’s a very interesting story for the time period, the idea that what you are reading might not be the absolute truth is a very modernist viewpoint for the 1890’s.

It’s a very spooky story, the setting - an old country mansion situated next to a small sleepy village. A small staff working in the house so many empty, disused rooms. It makes for a very tense, uneasy setting, and it definitely helps to create the sense of horror in the novel. It’s a pretty enjoyable read, though make sure you read it with the lights on! ( )
  ColeReadsBooks | Oct 2, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (90 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Henry Jamesprimary 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.
Haiku summary

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 26 descriptions

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Average: (3.46)
0.5 7
1 34
1.5 14
2 102
2.5 44
3 274
3.5 61
4 304
4.5 33
5 159


Sixteen 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

Two editions of this book were published by Urban Romantics.

Editions: 1909175811, 190917582X

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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