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The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Turn of the Screw (1898)

by Henry James

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,6881781,170 (3.44)774
  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 (159)  French (3)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (2)  Italian (2)  Swedish (2)  Vietnamese (1)  Danish (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (174)
Showing 1-5 of 159 (next | show all)
At Bly, a country estate in 19th century England, a young woman is hired as a governess for two young children who have been recently orphaned after the death of their parents. The home belongs to the children’s uncle who, although their legal guardian, wants nothing to do with them. At first, all is seemingly well, as the governess is thoroughly charmed with the beauty, intelligence, and disposition of her charges. Soon enough, though, things take a serious turn for the worse when she begins to see the ghosts of two former employees of the estate who seem to have malicious intentions toward the children. But are these apparitions real and, if so, why is the governess the only one who can see them? Alternatively, is she slowly descending into madness, or afflicted by some other malady? What are the secrets that the children seem to be protecting? How does the uncle’s apparent indifference factor into the situation? What explains the ultimate fates that the children and the governess experience?

Those are all excellent questions. Of course, one of the things that has kept The Turn of the Screw relevant fiction for more than a century is that Henry James never really answers any of them. Instead, he offers a psychologically complex gothic horror story that allows readers to decide—or at least try to—for themselves what actually happens. Certainly, the author’s innovations in this tale were hugely influential on many subsequent artists; over the years, the novella has inspired works in literature, film, theater, and even opera. What the book is not, unfortunately, is a particularly interesting or compelling narrative in the modern context. James wrote with a bloated, overly wordy style that severely minimized the impact of the suspense in the tale. Although described by some critics as “chillingly evil” and “sinister,” I found the story to fall well short of those marks, with the horrific elements often buried in long passages of verbose inner monologue from a very unreliable narrator. So, while I am glad to have read the book for its historical importance, it was not one that I especially enjoyed. ( )
  browner56 | Aug 3, 2019 |
“I seemed to float not into clearness, but into a darker obscure, and within a minute there had come to me out of my very pity the appalling alarm of his perhaps being innocent. It was for the instant confounding and bottomless, for if he were innocent, what then on earth was I?”

A young governess accepts a position in a beautiful estate in the English countryside, in Essex. The cosmopolitan uncle entrusts his niece and nephew into her hands and asks not to be disturbed under any circumstances. Bly is enormous, the acres endless, the house full of corridors and closed doors. Our unnamed narrator couldn’t be happier. Flora and Miles couldn’t be lovelier. And then, darkness arrives. A man standing on a tower, a woman in black standing by the lake. A strange song and a face at the window.

“I could only get on at all by taking "nature" into my confidence and my account, by treating my monstrous ordeal as a push in a direction unusual, of course, and unpleasant, but demanding, after all, for a fair front, only another turn of the screw of ordinary human virtue.”

Having recently watched (for the tenth time…) the marvelous 1961 film The Innocents, I thought that it was time to read one of Henry James’ most controversial works once again. I always choose this as a part of my summer readings. Its sultry atmosphere soon becomes eerie, its underlying sensuality grows within an environment of secrets and charged sexual tension. Suffocating and enticing, cryptic and provoking. Challenging. Hungry. The questions are many. Is everything real? Is the young woman ‘’imagining things’’? Has she created a world of her own, projecting her frustrations upon the ‘’innocents’’? Or has she found herself in a whirlwind of lust and obsession orchestrated by two malevolent spirits who use the children as vessels and instruments? Each reader needs to draw his/her own conclusions. James is not a writer who provides every solution at the end of his works. Even daily, mundane issues and snapshots of ordinary life acquire a different ‘’colour’’ in each novel. The Turn of the Screw is in a league of its own.

“The summer had turned, the summer had gone; the autumn had dropped upon Bly and had blown out half our lights. The place, with its gray sky and withered garlands, its bared spaces and scattered dead leaves, was like a theater after the performance--all strewn with crumpled playbills.”

Whatever your expectations may be, James created one of the best - if not THE best- Gothic novels of all time. Unique descriptions, commanding atmosphere, a background full of contrasts and dark imagery. The idyllic estate that changes when night falls. Two charming, gifted children that seem rather fascinated with Death, a housemaid that seems to protect every secret of the house. The Turn of the Screw defined the Gothic genre and paved the way for the trope of the Haunted House that is still extremely popular. More than ever, in fact. Whispers, apparitions, murmurs, nightly windows, shadows, a troubled young woman who wants to help and understand. Add desire and a potential incestuous relationship lurking in the future and you have a timeless story.

I read this novella when I was 17. It frustrated me because I was impatient, wanting to have every answer delivered on a silver plate. We discussed the hell out of it in university and I fell in love. I understood that the majority of the finest books written create more questions when their final page is turned. It was this work that gave birth to my fascination with dubious closures. Now, no matter how many times I have read it, its magnetism stays strong.

And I am one of those who side with the heroine. I firmly believe that it was all true. There are many dark forces around us and beyond us. Who's to say for certain?

“I take up my own pen again - the pen of all my old unforgettable efforts and sacred struggles. To myself - today - I need say no more. Large and full and high the future still opens. It is now indeed that I may do the work of my life. And I will.”

My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.wordpress.com/ ( )
2 vote AmaliaGavea | Aug 1, 2019 |
I just couldn't buy the angelic children and their caregivers' head over heals infatuation with them. I felt no menace from the ghosts and pretty much hated everyone in the story. I've read and enjoyed 18th century novels before, many of them, but the leaps of logic that they sometimes expect from the reader are too much. ( )
  Seafox | Jul 24, 2019 |
I'm a little disappointed. I thought this was supposed to be scary. ( )
  tntbeckyford | Feb 16, 2019 |
I really don’t know what to think of this ending! ( )
  kat_the_bookcat | Feb 7, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 159 (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.
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.
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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!

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:42 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

The governess of two enigmatic children fears their souls are in danger from the ghosts of the previous governess and her sinister lover.

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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Urban Romantics

2 editions of this book were published by Urban Romantics.

Editions: 1909175811, 190917582X

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