The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

I just recently read The Turn of the Screw by Henry James for the first time. I really wanted to enjoy it more. The Turn of the Screw was originally published in 1898 so I think some of my frustration was in the language and phrasing. It is classified by some as a horror story, but I didn’t get that from it. Some classify it as a psychological thriller, which I totally get, but for me, it is definitely a ghost story.

I knew the story before picking this up so that helped me, but if I had just read it, I’m not sure I would have understood it. This is a story that needs cultural context and history. Reading other interpretations of this book is very interesting and very diverse.

Two children whose parents have died are now under the guardianship of their uncle. Their uncle has hired a governess to care for them and makes it very clear that he doesn’t want to be bothered. The new governess takes on her role with great conviction. The boy Miles has been sent home from his private school. The reason is unknown and the governess can’t understand what he could have possibly done. The children are described as being beautiful and lovely.

As the governess tries to learn more about people who have cared for the children in the past, she begins to see visions & shadows of Quint, the former butler, and Miss Jessel, the governess before her. It seems the butler and former governess were obsessed with the children when they were alive. Now it seems they still want the children. The governess now believes that she must do anything it takes to protect the children from these ghosts.

Depending on how you read this book will depend on whether or not you think the governess is a reliable narrator. There are many layers to this story and I think the brilliance of it is that regardless of how you understand the narration, it can work.

Bookworm Rating: 🐛🐛🐛

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