Monday, August 29, 2011

The Turn of the Screw - Henry James

Summary:  An inexperienced young governess, in love with her employer on a secluded estate, comes to realize that her tow young charges are possessed of the evil ghosts of two former employees.  Her attempt to wage a moral battle of sorts for the souls of the lost children, culminates in unspeakable tragedy.  For sheer terror, for the spectral power to fasten itself upon the imagination, stirring and tormenting it, The Turn of the Screw is the apotheosis of macabre literature.  It arouses the senses and numbs them, clutches at the heart and makes it beat faster, while it unfolds one of the greatest ghost stories of all time.  (Summary from back of the book and image from

My Review:  What a creepy, short, and convoluted read.  I say convoluted because of the way in which it is written.  There were so many details, asides, and afterthoughts thrown in that each sentence seemed to take half a page.  It wasn't that bad, but many in my book club found it slow reading and sometimes halting to read.  If you struggle with the older Victorian way of writing/speaking, this may be a frustrating read.

There were so many fun things to discuss with this book, many of which I cannot go into without ruining the story here, despite its short length.  James leaves some questions unanswered, but just enough answered to satisfy the ghostly tale.  Was the young governess crazy or was she really possessed by the ghosts that haunt the house?  Were the children really so innocent, or was that another effect of the ghosts' possession?  Were there really sinister things at hand or was it all in her head?  What really killed any of the characters spoken about?  Why is the governess only able to see the ghosts, or do the rest of them see the ghosts, but refuse to tell?  What did Miles do to get himself expelled and why? 

James does a fantastic job of making the ordinary seem skin-tinglingly scary.  While there are no frightful screams, or horribly grotesque scenes, you will still leave the book feeling altered and disturbed.  Definitely worth the read!

My Rating:  4.5 stars  Only a half a star taken off for the difficult reading style.

Sum it up: A pretty freaky ride into a haunted world.

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