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


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The story starts conventionally enough with friends sharing ghost stories 'round the fire on Christmas Eve. One of the guests tells about a governess at a country house plagued by supernatural visitors. But in the hands of Henry James, the master of nuance, this little tale of terror is an exquisite gem of sexual and psychological ambiguity. Only the young governess can see the ghosts; only she suspects that the previous governess and her lover are controlling the two orphaned children (a girl and a boy) for some evil purpose. The household staff don't know what she's talking about, the children are evasive when questioned, and the master of the house (the children's uncle) is absent. Why does the young girl claim not to see a perfectly visible woman standing on the far side of the lake? Are the children being deceptive, or is the governess being paranoid? By leaving the questions unanswered, The Turn of Screw generates spine-tingling anxiety in its mesmerized readers. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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Much imitated ... but no one comes near the finesse of the master The Times Timelessly unsettling Guardian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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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: 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (246 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

90 of 100 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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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By karl b. on December 27, 1999
Format: Paperback
Henry James's tale is the last of the gothic Victorian novellas, with its richly developed sense of propriety-- a semblance of manners and understatement concealing primitive subliminal impulse. Its dense, symbolic language penetrates deeply into the psyche. There is evil here. But its emanation is ambiguous and amorphous. The characters exist in a pervasive atmosphere of dread. The exact source of that dread has intrigued readers since it was written before the turn the (20th) century. Central to James's fable is the character of the Governess. Was she deluded, predatory or ennobled? Her motives hold the key to the solution-- if there is a solution.
James reveled in brooding, subversive sexual undercurrents. The suspense is ethereal since nothing is sure in James's painstakingly constructed psychological panorama. What is real here? Whose innocence is being corrupted? It's all a mystery, wrapped in a riddle, cloaked in a-- well, ghost story! But riddles are meant to be solved. James has provided us all the necessary clues. The text fills barely 88 pages, but the critical interpretation, covering a century, shows the enduring capacity of 'the Screw' to engage the imagination. The analyses mirrors our changing attitudes toward children, psychology and the nature of evil. The Norton Critical Edition includes an excellent survey of various commentaries over the decades, which provide fascinating insight into contemporary mores as they were pressed into decoding James's great puzzle.
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