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89 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Others
Today's readers may not find Henry James's masterpiece "The Turn of the Screw" as creepy as it was when first published. To begin with, there is no gore in the book --the moments of horror are so subtle, but they get under one skin.
"The Turn of the Screw" was first published as a serialized novel in Collier's Weekly. After that it was published in the novel format,...
Published on June 20, 2004 by A. T. A. Oliveira

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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to Read but Fun
James's narrative style is bit difficult for me to read. It seems to me that, at least in this story, he writes in a breathless, phrase filled steam of consciousness style - similar, but more so, to this sentence. Most sentences contain many phrases having more or less to do with the subject of the sentence but getting to a point that I would re-read many of them to try...
Published on May 4, 2004 by Jennifer B. Barton


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89 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Others, June 20, 2004
Today's readers may not find Henry James's masterpiece "The Turn of the Screw" as creepy as it was when first published. To begin with, there is no gore in the book --the moments of horror are so subtle, but they get under one skin.
"The Turn of the Screw" was first published as a serialized novel in Collier's Weekly. After that it was published in the novel format, both in England and USA. When James wrote this novella was a period of increase of the popularity of spiritual issues. Many people were searching for new ways of explaining death, and they were also loosing their Christian faith. Many were trying to communicate with the Other Side.
But the dead in the novella, as James once stated, are not ghosts, as we know them. However, this belief persisted through time, and even today, most readers assume that Peter Quint and Miss Jessel are spectrums or a so-called entity.
On the form, "The Turn of the Screw" has some innovations. Prior to James, most novels were written through one point of view --this narrator told the story and the characters and actions are under his/her way of viewing, judgments, and conclusions. On the other hand, most of James's novels count with a difference: the narrator/character is not aware of everything. In this particular novella, we see the story through the eyes of governess and we know as little as she. Not only she, but also we, has a limited knowledge of the events.
Much can be concluded from the story --it is impossible to have a definitive conclusion. Some say the governess was a good character fighting against evil to protect the two children. But some scholars have researched and concluded that, as a matter of fact, the governess had a troubled mind. In 1934, Edmund Wilson wrote an essay that has become one of the most influential works on Henry James's ambiguity. Based on Freudian theory, Wilson argues that the governess's sexual repression leads her to neurotically imagine and interpret ghosts.
However, postmodernism have led critics to a different conclusion, which adds the two main chains of sturdy of "The Turn of the Screw". Not only are the ghosts in the novel, but the governess can also be mad. For these scholars, every incident can be interpreted as to prove that the governess is mad and to prove that there are ghosts. This irresolvable controversy makes James's work so brilliant and timeless.
Now it is up to each reader to find his/her own ghosts in this brilliant novella --so short and so deep and complex. Contemporary readers may be stunned and still scared with the smartness of the text. As the first narrator introduces the text, he says in the first line "the story had held us", "The Turn of the Screw" will hold every sophisticated reader in his/her seat.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Reason Henry James Continues to Enthrall, June 11, 2004
By 
"rtoddh" (Westmont, IL USA) - See all my reviews
A story told over a hundred years ago, and still sparking serious debate over its intention? Henry James must be proud. Now I like clear writing even more than the next fellow, but I find I really like the ambiguity and startling turns that both the dialogue and the plot take in Henry James's stories. The answers to the simplest questions put to a character always elicit an unexpected response. This makes it tough on a reader, who lazily expects direct, routine answers. It's unsettling and challenging to understand what these characters say, and mean, by their responses.
So, I think that the charm of Henry James is that the reader is asked to use his own imagination in interplay with the writing. It's a puzzle, and the more imagination one brings, the more fascinating the characters. You'll note how little physical description James uses for a character like Mrs. Grose, allowing the reader's imagination to fill in the blanks.
Each generation sees something different in the story. Originally viewed as a ghost story, it was later reviewed to be a Freudian tale, told by an unreliable narrator. Sexual overtones affected the narrative of the governess, making the reader question what she saw, and what she says others saw. This ambigous reality reached not only to perception of the ghosts, but of the actions and motives of the children.
However, I was struck as a 21st Century reader by the awful plight of Miles, the ten-year-old boy asked not to return to school for reasons the school never explains. It is only in the last chapter, when Miles and the governess are alone together, where the governess uses language that seems to promise carnal pleasure to Miles, that the most startling aspect of Miles character is revealed. Abruptly asked whether he was discharged accused of stealing, he instead admits to having told things to "those few he liked." They in turn told others they liked, and it eventually reached the head master. This beautiful, sensitive, intelligent boy was trapped and mortified by the things he said to the few he liked, and only reluctantly reveals this to the Governess. It is left to the reader's imagination what Miles may have said, but given Henry James's own sexuality, much may be supposed.
Then the Governess alerts Miles to the ghost that she has been seeing during their conversation, and she thinks, has been protecting Miles from. He supposes she means the prior governess, who had been "haunting" his younger sister. Instead, in horror, he hears that she means deceased Peter Quint, an unsavory manservant with a penchant for wearing his master's clothes and an interest in the children. Quint's death was unexplained but violent one night as he was coming from town. Can it be that he and Miles had a relationship that causes Miles to be so ashamed and fearful that he dies rather than face his tormentor? It is ambiguous, but the possibility, so real to the reader, does not seem to occur to the governess, who in her zeal to protect Miles, has pushed him to confront the one horror that he could not survive, in order to save him from the ghost she alone sees.
Great story, requiring careful attention, but the ideas have inspired arguments among generations of readers.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Delicious and Deceptive Little Tale, May 20, 2001
Henry James is one of my favorite authors and this novella is one of my favorite books. It's a ghost story, it's horror, it's suspense, but what set it head and shoulders above most ghost/horror/suspense stories is the fact that it's strictly psychological.
A young governess secures a position at what appears to be a lovely English manor house and she soon discovers that nothing is what is seems and things are definitely not as they should be.
James has a highly stylized way of writing and he loved using long, convoluted sentences, even when saying something quite simple. Some readers might find this a litle jarring, but for me it only adds to the atmosphere of the book.
Over the years there has been much speculation about the meaning of this story, especially the enigmatic ending. I know what I think, but I won't give anything away here. Read The Turn of the Screw yourself and be prepared for a scary evening of surprises and perhaps even a sleepless night.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complex ghost story, January 24, 2002
By 
Westley (Stuck in my head) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This book is clearly a classic, but as many of the reviews reflect, it is not for every audience. Many of the reviewers here are in high school...when I went to high school I had several friends who read this book and were equally unimpressed with it. I read it in my late twenties and was blown away with the combination of elaborate language, complex psychological thrills, and genuine scares. The book must have been quite shocking to its initial audience, and within this context, it still is a shocker. Read this book and focus on the psychological aspects, and you'll likely have a good time. Incidentally, the book was made into a brilliant movie, "The Innocents," starring Deborah Kerr.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A little rhyme, February 3, 2007
This story involves two ghosts

And some children perhaps their hosts.

Has their young governess gone quite mad?

Are or these children possessed and bad?

Questions, questions are all we see

No clear answers are going to be.

Henry James wrote this great ghost tale

And its worthiness does prevail.

So read this book and get a chill

Excellent writing enjoyed still.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a conjectural analysis, January 2, 1999
This review is from: The Turn of the Screw (Paperback)
One can accept either of the two established opinions -- that the children did see the ghosts and the governess was telling the truth; or that the children saw nothing, but were frightened by the hallucinating governess -- or one can realize that James intended the reader to be nagged by doubt concerning this -- and a few other -- questions. The question of doubt goes beyond the governess's account. Whether or not one believes her, Quint and Miss Jessel are real, evil figures. But how evil can they have been if they left the children so seemingly innocent? If one believes the governess, so evil that the children's innocence is merely a sham. But there is too much doubt planted and not enough known about the nature of the evil for this to be at all convincing. If one disbelieves the governess, then are the children uncorrupted? In that case, what would explain Mrs. Grose's abhorrence? The abundance of unanswerable questions hints at a void at the center of the story. So do, of course, the multiple frames and narrative ellipses. But is that void simply a void, or is it itself a ghost? How many readers have been haunted by this story, unable to shake it, disturbed and unsatisfied? How many, in other words, have felt like the governess felt? Worse, how many have felt the empty evil at the heart of this ghostly void, the feeling that James may be playing a terrible trick, may have something even worse up his sleeve than whatever dark suggestions the reader's own imagination may have conjured up? The story is not unfathomable, however. Like so many of James's other stories, especially those written during the previous few years, it is about a writer -- in this case the governess -- who fails. The children she takes care of are no less imaginary than the ghosts she describes. It is she who muddies the waters, not James. There are evil ghosts out there, but they live in pens and pencils, not old houses.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Do you believe in ghosts?, October 22, 2004
I brought a considerable amount of bias to this story; after all, it has been hailed as the greatest ghost story ever written by so many literary critics, and it is difficult to set aside such prophesies of adulation.

I wasn't terribly disappointed.

Henry James has a style of writing that doesn't appeal to everyone. Certainly not to people expecting fast paced thrillers written by Dan Brown, or horror glock by Stephen King. His style is slow, psychological, in some places almost operatic. But there were strong points and weak points, and those are clearly delineated here. The introduction is fabulously alive and sparkles with tension, as do all of the sequences where characters interact with each other. When we are left alone in the mind of the governess, who is either a prescient seer or a hopeless neurotic, the immediacy of the writing slows considerably.

Unfortunately, we are in the mind of the governess for the majority of the story.

Still, it's a fascinating tale, rife with subtlety and passion, and considerable suspense. What did the young master do at school that caused him to be sent home, when he appears to be such a perfect angel? What is the nature of the apparitions the governess sees? What affect, if any, do these apparitions have on the two children in her care?

The ending itself is ingenious, and quite a shock. It answers many questions, but leaves just as many unanswered. You'll need to connect the dots yourselves, for James doesn't give much away.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Obsession? Possession?, April 23, 2012
By 
This review is from: The Turn of the Screw (Paperback)
Dreadful dreadfulness.
I always wondered what the title of Henry James' famous ghost story means. Now I know and it is no spoiler to tell you, as the explanation is given on page 1. A ghost story is made more ghostly when a child is involved. (This takes us right into a great horror tradition, from Goethe's Erlkoenig to the superb ghost film 'The Others' with Nicole Kidman.)

The frame is a familiar one: people in a gothic mansion, 19th century England, telling each other ghost stories after dinner.
One man offers two turns of the screw. He makes things complicated by not telling the story in his own words, rather he must read it from a manuscript, that the late writer gave to him some time ago...
Magnificent set up, isn't it.

The writer of the manuscript is a young woman who joins a bachelor's household as a governess. The man has to take care of 2 children, his nephew and niece, who lost their parents in India.
The kids are kept at the country seat, where the governess will be mistress over a household of servants. There had been a predecessor, who had unfortunately died. The uncle does not want to be troubled with any problems or questions, ever, and he never visits.

The woman is delighted with the pretty place and with the pretty little girl. The little boy will arrive 2 days later from a boarding school ... From which he has been mysteriously expelled. Anxieties begin to build.

They are masterfully strengthened by the sight of an inexplicable stranger who appears briefly at the mansion, a few times. She nearly freaks out...from her descriptions, the householder identifies the man as the master's valet. The man had died last year... The women fear that the valet is looking for the children...a second ghost shows up, and the certainty that the children are aware of both, and that they are somehow involved in a conspiracy... How to protect the kids?
Enough.

This is not HJ's first ghost story, but it is the longest and the most unrestrained, creepy one. Suspense sets in early on. The apparition doesn't let us wait for the last pages, as in some other stories. Classy job. Elegant entertainment. Among the top of the genre.

We will never know whether we are meant to believe the narrator. Is she a nut case? She is certainly out of her depth as an educator. She has lost her authority with the kids and is on the defensive.
Generations of lit scientists have puzzled over the meaning of this story. Good job, Henry!
And quite a few horror stories and films have picked up the theme of the angelic children with suspect attitudes, motives, and powers.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to Read but Fun, May 4, 2004
James's narrative style is bit difficult for me to read. It seems to me that, at least in this story, he writes in a breathless, phrase filled steam of consciousness style - similar, but more so, to this sentence. Most sentences contain many phrases having more or less to do with the subject of the sentence but getting to a point that I would re-read many of them to try to sort out exactly what was intended. Oftentimes, I felt that I only got the gist of the sentence before moving on. The story is intriguing and I was dying to understand it. In the end, I think that a great deal of the ambiguity is intentional. This is one case where I may end up resorting to help from Cliff in interpretation.
The story of the unnamed governess is given as a sort of ghost story told among friends but originating from the real manuscript of the narrator's sister's governess of the spectral occurrences she witnessed at a previous position she had had when she was younger. Accepting a post at Bly as governess to a young girl who's brother was away to school, she is under the strict interdiction not to make reports to her employer, the children's legal guardian and uncle. Shortly after the beginning of her engagement, the male child returns from the school, presumably for the holidays, but a letter from the headmaster informs her that he is not to be allowed back. No reasons are given and a mystery develops over why a child so innocent seeming as he should be outcast. Mystery continues to flourish as the new governess begins to see two people on the grounds that are identified by the housekeeper on their descriptions as the previous governess and the employer's man - both deceased. As the governess becomes convinced that the apparitions have malevolent designs on the children, she enters into a struggle of evasion and confrontation, dealing with things half-said or unspoken. While I was truly clueless most of the time as to exactly what her suspicions were, the ending seemed to illuminate them and was very powerful. I think that the design of the story is to play on the reader's imagination and interpretation ... I think. This is one story where I will seek out other's reactions to see if I read it the same way they did; but even if other's reader's interpretation are vastly different I still believe that that allowance for each reader's imagination to give the shape to the story is remarkable.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Changed My Opinion Of James; Also, A Note On Spoilers, October 2, 2010
By 
Art Turner (Rockford, IL USA) - See all my reviews
I don't want to use this space to objectively discuss the literary merit of THE TURN OF THE SCREW, or talk about the interpretational history of same, or to address any number of similar matters that others are much better qualified to than I am. I simply want to take a moment to note that this is the work that (for the space of a novella anyway) made me actually like Henry James.

Before I read this book, I hated, hated, HATED Henry James. Everything I read of his seemed to concern despicable characters mulling over petty social protocols, laid down in labyrinthine prose that would try the patience of a saint. I had always meant to attempt more of his work, largely in light of the fact that there were so many people whose opinions I respected who loved the stuff, but I couldn't quite get up the will until the other day where I picked up an old copy of TURN OF THE SCREW that I had sitting by my computer desk and actually made a running start of it.

Suprise! I actually found to be an entertaining (albiet difficult) read. I had been previously unaware that James was capable of creating a plot where you actually, you know, want to find how out things turn out, but here it was. Additionally, those long, complex sentences actually seem to be here for a reason this time - in a tale like TURN OF THE SCREW where the keynote is ambiguity, it actually makes stylistic sense to make the reader wind his way through the inchoate thoughts of a frightened young woman. Finally, I'm a sucker for an unreliable narrator like we find here (although she is not, in my opinion, either insane or hallucinatory). In short, I still don't think James is ever gonna be my go-to guy if I want to luxuriate in beautiful prose, but I do find it reassuring that he found a story where he could put his idiosyncratic style to good use.

POSTSCRIPT: A (hopefully) brief kvetch - why is it that, when dealing with classic fiction, so many people seem to think it's okay to include spoilers? I bring this up in this particular review as I don't believe I've ever seen so many as I have with writing (here and elsewhere) on TURN OF THE SCREW. To clarify: letting anyone know the ending of a story without forewarning them is terribly presumptuos and inconsiderate, regardless of said story's perceived literary merit, standing, or ubiquity. If you indulge in this odious practice, please refrain from doing so in the future.
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The Turn of The Screw and Other Short Novels (Signet Classics)
The Turn of The Screw and Other Short Novels (Signet Classics) by Henry James (Mass Market Paperback - September 4, 2007)
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