Saturday, November 20, 2010

Henry James: The Turn of the Screw

I finally read this delightful little Gothic Horror novella, The Turn of the Screw. My edition was only 87 pages, and with its Christmas ghost story setting, it's perfect for this time of year.

A governess takes a position at an English country estate to look after two seemingly angelic children: Miles and Flora. All is not what it seems, however, and soon the governess sees ghosts on the grounds. The governess is sure that the children are seeing the ghosts of their former governess, Miss Jessel and her lover, Peter Quint just as she is. Nevertheless, the children won't admit it. Are they liars or evil beings cloaked in innocence, or is it the governess herself who is mad?

Plot: 4/5 [The tension builds nicely, and James keeps the novel to a good length; he tells the story at a good pace. The ending provides a shocking twist.]

Characterization: 5/5 [Miles and Flora are enigmatic and fascinating characters as is the governess.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 4/5 [This one gave me a few chills with the wonderful description of the ghosts and of the children, too. The focus on the mind and perception also were creepy.]

Literary elements: 5/5 [What makes this novel a classic is its depiction of what reality is and what perception is. James is adept at psychological profiles of ambiguity and of leaving readers with a hall of mirrors. Sometimes this hall is one we know from our own lives regarding how we and others recognize and agree upon reality (or do not) .]

Rating: 4+ stars     ****+

I recommend this quick read for another holiday novel. The language is lovely, and I took my time with it. It is truly unique, unsettling, and thoroughly modern.


Anonymous said...

I liked it! Beru ... .)))))))

susied said...

I think this is one of the most frustrating stories I've encountered! Have seen movie versions, which were good, but still frustrating nonetheless. If this is out on audio, I think I'll give it a listen and see if I can 'see' it with new eyes.

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