The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw

eBook - 2009
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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...
Publisher: [Waiheke Island] : Floating Press, ©2009.
ISBN: 9781775410737
Characteristics: 1 online resource (221 pages)


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Mar 17, 2021


Jan 16, 2021

When the parents of Miles and Flora died, their uncle did not wish to raise them, so he hired a governess. The governess arrives at rural Bly Manor to find two sweet children - one of whom has been recently expelled from boarding school. She also begins to see spectral characters wandering the estate. The specters appear to be the ghosts of Miss Jessel - the previous governess - and Peter Quint - another employee of the uncle. In life, Jessel and Quint had a close relationship with the children and this relationship seems to continue after their deaths.

Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw" is a gothic ghost story, told in a mostly straightforward narrative. The young woman arrives and experiences the haunting and tries to protect the children under her care, fearing that they were corrupted by the ghostly couple before and after their deaths. The story is told in the first person with the unnamed governess acting as narrator, so we never know for sure if the ghosts exist outside of her own mind.

The American James does a good job in creating an English story and we get a feel for the gothic atmosphere and the British dialogue.

The author's biggest problem is that he frequently uses ten words to express a thought when five would easily do. As a result, his writing comes across as pretentious. It was difficult for me to get past this and enjoy the story.

Oct 17, 2020

Introduced to the literary society as one of our first ghost stories, Henry James The Turn of the Screw invites us into a captivating world of a governess and the hauntingly beautiful orphans she is required to take care of. inspiring the recent Netflix show by the title of The Haunting of Bly Manor, The Turn of the Screw is a quick and easy one day read that will leave you questioning the characters in the book, and what is actually happening. One thing I really liked about the book was how quick it moved. The entire novel is around 144 pages, and the way it is written moved the story along very quickly, giving you little time to put the book down or wait for suspense. The book is packed with spooky ghosts and children, and a haunting manor to encapsulate all of these features. Out of five, I would give this book 4 stars. While I did enjoy the fast pace of the story, the ending was extremely abrupt, and almost didn't entirely make sense or work with the book. There is a lot of ambiguity created in the ending, and combined with an extremely unreliable narrator, it could be interpreted in a number of ways. Besides that, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the spooky story perfect for this October! @readingmouse of the Teen Review Board at the Hamilton Public Library

Apr 03, 2020

If you enjoy Gothic haunted tales, this is for you. Imagine yourself as a young governess, hired by a reclusive uncle to attend over his young niece and nephew. The Uncle instructs her to not bother him under any circumstance. What appears to be an pleasant experience for the young woman is slowly and steadily turned into horror. Something very evil is going on, despite the children, who are beautiful, and so pleasant to be around. Henry James it at his best here at ratcheting up the tension in each successive chapter.

Mar 08, 2020

Not an easy read, but the Turn of the Screw was the most palatable.

Feb 16, 2019

Good story, painful to read. Overly verbose and an absolute slog.

Nov 25, 2017

Having read this many years ago, I decided to revisit it and found it just as trying a read as I remembered; although it has its rewards for the tenacious reader. The narrator seems to have never met a run-on sentence she didn't like.

As a self-confessed Grammar Nazi, I was surprised to find James' governess use the term "literally" more than once in what I believe is an incorrect manner (she says she "literally slept at her post" when she had not really fallen asleep.) I thought the misuse of this word was modern, as when someone says they "literally lost their mind" when they mean figuratively.

There are also some obscure words ("asseverate") to add to your vocabulary. The edition I read (Wordsworth Classics that also contained The Aspen Papers) has notes in the back to explain references that were probably understood by readers in 1898.

P.S. Although it contains a major spoiler, check out the satiric You Tube video in which Hitler rails against his staff as he asseverates his interpretation of the story.

Jul 18, 2016

I read this (as a 30-year-old) in my pursuit of classic literature that I did not read in high school or college. I enjoyed this short story. It was sufficiently creepy and written in such a manner as to pique my interest in the conclusion. I have to add that I love unreliable narrators. Is the governess sane or not? Great story for a debate in a class/book club.

Jan 30, 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.

Jul 12, 2014

The story was ok. But it dragged a bit, and I kept getting bogged down with the 'old' English writing.

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babyunicorn26 Jul 09, 2012

A lonely governess discovers a horrible secret about two foundlings raised by evil servants in this Gothic horror classic.


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babyunicorn26 Jul 09, 2012

"I hesitated; then I judged best simply to hand her my letter – which, however, had the effect of making her, without taking it, simply put her hands behind her. She shook her head sadly. "Such things are not for me, miss."

My counselor couldn't read! I winced at my mistake, which I attenuated as I could, and opened my letter again to repeat it to her."

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