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The Turn of the Screw (Dover Thrift Editions) Paperback – January 1, 1991

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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Thrift Editions
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: The Modern Library; Reprint edition (January 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486266842
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486266848
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Widely recognized as one of literature's most gripping ghost stories, this classic tale of moral degradation concerns the sinister transformation of two innocent children into flagrant liars and hypocrites. The story begins when a governess arrives at an English country estate to look after Miles, aged ten, and Flora, eight. At first, everything appears normal but then events gradually begin to weave a spell of psychological terror.
One night a ghost appears before the governess. It is the dead lover of Miss Jessel, the former governess. Later, the ghost of Miss Jessel herself appears before the governess and the little girl. Moreover, both the governess and the housekeeper suspect that the two spirits have appeared to the boy in private. The children, however, adamantly refuse to acknowledge the presence of the two spirits, in spite of indications that there is some sort of evil communication going on between the children and the ghosts.
Without resorting to clattering chains, demonic noises, and other melodramatic techniques, this elegantly told tale succeeds in creating an atmosphere of tingling suspense and unspoken horror matched by few other books in the genre. Known for his probing psychological novels dealing with the upper classes, James in this story tried his hand at the occult—and created a masterpiece of the supernatural that has frightened and delighted readers for nearly a century.

About the Author

American author Henry James (1843–1916) spent most of his career in Europe and ultimately adopted British citizenship. A prolific writer of criticism, biography, and travel-related books and articles, James is known above all for his highly influential novels, which frequently explore the clash of Old and New World cultures.

Customer Reviews

It felt really good to put this book down.
I had to read this for English class, but glad this is the book my professor chose.
Vanessa O Lujan
It is short, and it serves well to introduce the reader to James's writing style.
Bill R. Moore

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 99 people found the following review helpful By A. T. A. Oliveira on June 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
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.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By "rtoddh" on June 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
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.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Westley VINE VOICE on January 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
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 By Susan K. Schoonover VINE VOICE on February 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
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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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Appleseed VINE VOICE on October 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
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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