ISBN-13: 9780486266848
Publisher: Dover Publications, Inc.
Published: 1991
87 pgs

This is a ghost story narrated by the governess when she took the position of looking after two young charges (Miles, aged ten, and Flora, eight) whose parents have passed away. When the governess was first interviewed for this job, she was told that she should never trouble her employer (who is the siblings' uncle and their legal guardian) due to his difficulty (which was never truly explained), nor could she appeal, complain or write about anything and only meet all questions herself. She would receive all moneys from his solicitor, take the whole thing over and let him alone. Though the conditions sound queer, the governess took up the position because the salary offered much exceeded her modest measure.

The governess knew of her predecessor though she does not know everything about her; she is like a mystery and no one wants to talk about her either. Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper, is a respectable woman but she does not offer information much about everything. All these did not discourage the governess and she strive hard to get settle down in the big country estate and getting to know the siblings.

All things seem to be normal in the beginning but slowly, she began to sense an apparition in the house. This is where the story took on a turn of psychological terror when the governess realizes they are ghosts of the previous valet and governess, which she believes they haunt the two children. Aside from keeping the children safe, she is also keen to unravel the mystery of the relationship of the dead valet, her predecessor and the family. When she later learned that the two spirits have appeared to the children in private and suspected they have some sort of evil communication, she is horrified but she could never understand why the children have adamantly refuse to acknowledge the presence of the spirits and why should she even feel threatened by Miles, especially.

Told from the governess' perspective, The Turn of the Screw has all the right elements of a true psychological horror. It has an eerie, creepy atmosphere but what made this classic different from other books of the same genre is that the author did not really articulate what is going on and that the story totally leave you to your own imaginations, and maybe this explain why I did not feel strongly with this story as compared to The Haunting of Hill House since I heard there are some comparison between these two. I think the writing style also plays a part but I have to say both have excellent main characters.

I think the relationship between Miles and the governess is the core of this story and often I find myself thinking about Miles' innocence (and behaviour) and wonder if there is a lot more of him than meets the eye. The dialogues are great and engaging though, and this is another reason why I was sucked into this story though I was perplexed over some passages which I could not fully grasp (oh, especially the ending!). I will have to keep this book back to my pile for a re-read in future.

Other reviews:
(Let me know if I missed yours.)
18 Responses
  1. Ana S. Says:

    It's all very ambiguous, isn't it? But for me, that added to the appeal! I'll need to re-read it at some point as well. I'm sure I'll notice all sorts of things I didn't pick up on this time.

  2. Dot Says:

    I've been meaning to read this for ages! Quite a few people have reviewed it recently and said the same as you, I shall have to get a copy and find out for myself.

  3. Unknown Says:

    I've been wanting to read this since Audrey Niffenegger stated it was her favourite book. I didn't realise it was only 87 pages long. I'm going to see if I can find a copy in the library this week. It sounds amazing.

  4. Sandy Nawrot Says:

    I am slightly embarrassed that I've not read this either. I mean, it is classic horror, and I love horror. I think I will take Jackie's lead and try to get it at the library!

  5. joanna Says:

    Sounds great and, like Jackie, I want to read it because of Audrey Niffennegger... I wonder if I can still fit it in before Halloween, sounds perfect!

  6. Jeane Says:

    I have never read any Henry James but he is one of my mother's favorite authors, and I know she had this book on her shelf. Ghost stories? ambiguous endings? perhaps not for me, but someday I have to try this author!

  7. Molly Says:

    I agree with Nymeth - I think the ambiguity added to the story's personal appeal. I think this is a story that reveals as much about the reader (and how she/he interprets the story) as it does about the author.

    I had to read the story two summers ago for a class in Victorian Narratives, and I do want to re-read it again (and perhaps again).

    Very nice review!

  8. Andreea Says:

    This is one of my favorite books. Great review, Melody! Yes, the ending is ambiguous, but it makes you think about it even more!

  9. Amy Says:

    Great review! I haven't read this since college. . .I'll have to re-read it.

  10. Iliana Says:

    Oh now I totally want to read this! I've had this book waiting for me for a while - I always say I'm going to read it for Carl's R.I.P. challenge but you know how that goes. Great review, Melody!

  11. Alice Says:

    I intend to read this one day. :)

  12. Lisa Says:

    I listened to this one and really didn't care for it but I think my husband has a copy of it from college and I may try actually reading it one of these days.

  13. Ladytink_534 Says:

    I have heard of this but I either didn't know or forgot what it was about. This sounds neat!

  14. It does sound like a really good story and I'd like to read it eventually but I just don't like James's writing. It sounds like maybe you had some of the same problems that I've had with his other writings. Maybe I'll just go for Jackson's book instead.

  15. Julia Says:

    Sound like it was a good ghost story, Melody! And yes sometime doing a re-read help us to grasp the story better the second time around ;) Great review :)

  16. This is the type of story that definitely lends itself to discussion, doesn't it? Especially that ending! Thank you for your great review, Melody, and for taking me down memory lane. :-)

  17. Melody Says:

    Nymeth - It is ambiguous! :P But then, some stories work best with that ending. I'm sure we'd find something new when we re-read it the other time! ;)

    Dot - I was worried that I was the only one who felt that way about the book, haha. As I said, I need to re-read it at some point to pick up stuff which I thought I might've missed.

    Jackie - I didn't know this is Audrey Niffenegger's favourite book until I read your post. :) I can't wait to hear what you'll think of it!

    Sandy - There's nothing to be embarrassed about. We can't possibly read all the classic or greatest books in the world! It's always better to be late than never anyway. ;)

    Joanna - There's something atmospheric about this book so I think this book definitely fits for Halloween or RIP IV Challenge! :D

    Jeane - Now I'm intriged by Henry James' works and I'd love to read the rest of his books.

    Molly - I'm sure each reader will interpret the story differently and I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on it! ;)

    Andreea - Indeed it has left me wondering even till now, Andreea! :P

    Amy - This book makes a great re-read IMO.

    Iliana - I hope you'd read it soon so I can read your review on it! :D

    Alice - I can't wait to hear what you'll think of it when you get to it! :)

    Lisa - I think this is just one of those books which we either love it or loathe it. :P

    Jen - Maybe it's time for a re-read, LOL.

    Trish - It's a good story but I was kinda stumped with the ending. I hope his other books will be better. ;)

    Julia - That's what I thought, Julia! :P

    Wendy - How I wish we had read this book in school! This book will definitely makes a great discussion! ;)

  18. S. Krishna Says:

    I had no idea this was a ghost story - thanks for the review!

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