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The Turn of the Screw (1898)

by Henry James

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,1581871,134 (3.44)808
The Turn of the Screw is s ghostly Gothic tale by Henry James. A masterpiece in ambivalence and the uncanny, The Turn of the Screw tells the story of a young woman who is hired as governess to two seemingly innocent children in an isolated country house. As the tale progresses she begins to see the ghost of her dead predecessor. Or does she? The story is so ambivalent and eerie, such a psychological thriller, that few can agree on exactly what takes place. James masters "the strange and sinister embroidered on the very type of the normal and easy" in this chilling Victorian classic.… (more)
  1. 71
    The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (SandSing7)
  2. 40
    The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: Both have an unreliable narrator, which results in an ambiguous story.
  3. 30
    The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (alalba)
  4. 30
    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (hazzabamboo)
  5. 10
    The Magus by John Fowles (WSB7)
    WSB7: Appearances also arise, and many more turns of the screw.
  6. 21
    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.
  7. 10
    Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (HollyMS)
  8. 00
    In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu (HollyMS)
  9. 01
    LibrarythingEmily: The story was not so long but I still remember the story. It is very different from the real story but this difference makes it more haunted. I won't tell you if you should read it or not. But I can tell the person who doesn't read it will miss a lot.… (more)
1890s (4)
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English (169)  Spanish (4)  Dutch (2)  French (2)  Italian (2)  Swedish (2)  Vietnamese (1)  Catalan (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (184)
Showing 1-5 of 169 (next | show all)
Thomas Hardy described James' sentences as "infinite." I thought, yeah right! That's good coming from you! Then I started reading what has to be one of the most famous ghost stories in the English language and found that if anything, Hardy was understating matters...

Having once got from the framing story to the main narrative, the reader is treated to the tale of a woman who can read not portentous but, with a random confusing clause put in just to keep you on your toes, moral and intentional depths, depths which - deep as they are - are not as vertiginous as they will be, when the next clause comes along just to tax your parsing skills, and the most divine beauties betray this to no others even though they have much greater, almost vastly superior, knowledge of the angelic orphans but these are merely working class servants who, however good-hearted, even saintly of spirit, they may be, cannot be relied upon because they are poorly educated, illiterate and hence stupid; surely unable to discern character accurately regardless of the extent or intimacy of the acquaintance - and indeed, these superb orphans have, it appears to the extra-ordinary perception of a narrator who sees ghosts in supremely mundane settings, come under the evil, it might not be too much to say infernal, influence of a couple whose crime is, not that they are working class but that they are working class and decline to humble themselves to the gentlefolk who by virtue of birth are intrinsically superior to them and would corrupt the precocious offspring into hideous crimes such as not liking their Governess or stealing a letter, thus precipitating a battle for the very souls of the narrator's young charges, a battle which, mercifully, progresses, in the last two fifths of the book, with, contrastingly, a canter, though never reaching a gallop and ending - abruptly.

The narrator isn't so much unreliable as completely looney tunes, by the way - at least, it's easier to believe that than take her word at face value.

James' control over mood and ability to prolong suspense is astonishing. One could endlessly construct theories as to what is really going on which is probably a big factor in the reputation of a story using elements that would usually cause it to be dismissed as "merely" genre fiction by the forgers of the canon. It's easy to over-dose early on - best to take it no more than one chapter at a time - but by the startling end it is impossible to deny the author's skill. This was a successful experiment and I shall dabble further in the James oeuvre.
( )
  Arbieroo | Jul 17, 2020 |
I picked The Turn of the Screw for my 2014 Halloween read. I was thinking that this would be a scary book but did not find it frightening really. Written by Henry James and published in 1898, The Turn of the Screw is a Gothic ghost story novella.

The beginning of the story starts with a man named Douglas reading a manuscript sent to him by his sister's former governess. We have the governess working in the country at the Bly estate charged with taking care of her employer's nephew Miles and niece Flora.There are other servants there but the manuscript only details the governess conversations with the housekeeper Mrs. Grose. Ten year old Miles returns from school with a letter explaining he has been expelled. This causes the governess no end in mental gymnastics wondering what could have occurred that would have been so horrible for him to be expelled. She soon decides that Miles is just as wonderful as his sister Flora and that whatever happened must not have been his fault. Eventually the governess begins to see a man and woman she does not recognize around the Bly estate and becomes increasingly alarmed that they are there for the children.

One of my least favorite things in any books is an unreliable narrator. Probably because it causes you to wonder what was true and what was not true in the book and you find yourself analyzing every little thing until your head hurts. The Turn of the Screw has an unreliable narrator in the form of the governess who writes to Douglas about her experiences. The way it is written by James you have to question was the governess right or in my opinion was she slowly going insane and seeing people that were really not there.

The main reason why I believed that was because her conversations with Mrs. Grose were often done with a lot of double-speak and because it seemed to be the governess became obsessed with the two children and thought of them as hers. She initially in the beginning of the story makes up something monstrous that must have caused Miles to be expelled and her imagination seemed to be turned against her in this case. Her conversations with Mrs. Grose became increasingly irrational and by the end I was 100 percent convinced that she was insane. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
For about the first half of this, I really enjoyed it. There was that great slow build you tend to get with gothic horror, and that feeling that you're seeing more than the protagonist is, which is great for building suspense. But then it just kind of dwindled. Where I was expecting an exciting plot reveal, there was really only more of the same. In the end, you're left questioning the narrator, which I enjoy, but I was also left feeling a little underwhelmed. I wanted something bigger. A wife in the attic or a woman in white. Which is not to say that I didn't still like it - but rather that I could've liked it so much more. ( )
  Tara_Calaby | Jun 22, 2020 |
Oddly enough, I had a pretty good time with this turn-of-the-last-century ghost story. Something in me wanted to be worried, however, and after reading a number of rather... critical... reviews, I came into this expecting some rather... dated... concepts.

Yes, yes, the whole Victorian "you are what you wear" and "you are as you appear" concept is especially grating, and despite the rather usual non-minimalist prose, I enjoyed being dangled about on multiple red-herrings and preoccupations. I can even forgive our Governess's relative inexperience and ignorance of the utter batshit insane obsessions of a pair of tots.

Kids are fantastic at fooling adults.

Oh yeah. Fantastic.

Creepy little...

ANYWAY! I enjoyed the ghost story, the possession, the preoccupation with letters, gossip, and afternoon delights. I didn't find it at all stuffy, but it's NOT much like a modern ghost story at all. Elements, sure, but it's very much a period piece. :) ( )
1 vote bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
Narrated by Emma Thompson, I enjoyed re-reading this classic, gothic novella for the third time.

I know many readers are not impressed by this book, but I enjoyed it, (again). I know it's rather verbose, especially considering the length of the book, but I found more than a few of the sentences to be outright chilling.

I've always loved psychological horror and ambiguous stories, so this one hits most of the marks for me. My original rating of the book, at 4 stars, stands. ( )
  Charrlygirl | Mar 22, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 169 (next | show all)
Det rör sig om en av världslitteraturens otäckaste berättelser. Otäck inte bara för att det som händer är otäckt utan för att man inte riktigt vet vad som händer – och har hänt.

» Add other authors (248 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James, Henryprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Armitage, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Benjamin, VanessaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Binnendijk-Paauw, M.G.Translatorsecondary 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
Thompson, EmmaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Van Doren, CarlIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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'The Turn of the Screw' holds a unique place in the canon of Henry James's fiction. (Introduction)
This perfectly independent and irresponsible little fiction rejoices, beyond any rival on a like ground, in a conscious provision of prompt retort to the sharpest question that may be addressed to it. (Preface)
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 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
Such lovely little
children – but hark!, I think they
commune with spirits!

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