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The Turn of the Screw (Dover Thrift Editions) Paperback – January 1, 1991
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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 an alternate Paperback edition.
''Both narrators are skilled and capable and render James' complex prose as clearly as it would be on the page, if not more so. Benjamin conveys the classic question of the governess's reliability by making her voice pleasant and reasonable yet increasingly self-justifying and high-strung . . . Through her narration the eerie, claustrophobic effect of James's tale is heightened -- just what a good audiobook should do.'' --AudioFile
''In rich and mellow tones, Vance dramatically introduces this classic ghost tale . . . Benjamin's reading of the story, in a sweet British accent, is a calming contrast . . . but when appropriate, Benjamin's tones alter the mood dramatically . . . Benjamin's accent and emotional undercurrents are just right. This excellent production highlights James' gorgeous prose and skill at creating and sustaining a mood of growing unease and horror.'' --Booklist
''This enigmatic, chilling, classic ghost story is especially well told in semivoiced narrations.'' -- SoundCommentary.com
''More than a horrific ghost story, The Turn of the Screw is an enigmatic and disturbing psychological novel that probes the source of terror in neuroses and moral degradation . . . The Turn of the Screw will continue to fascinate and to intrigue because James' 'cold artistic calculation' has so filled it with suggestiveness and intentional ambiguity that it may be read at different levels and with new revelations at each successive reading.'' --Masterpieces of World Literature --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The story is a woman's narrative of her haunted surroundings and her duty to protect the children she is to care for. While some author's would focus on scenery or character, this story focuses, obsessively so, on the narrator's thoughts, examinations, and speculations – almost akin to Poe.
The story told is ultimately satisfying and rewarding. I would guess the book would lend itself well to a second reading because it is complex in its ambiguities and subtleties.
It is a challenge to describe the plot without spoilers, but I will try. An unnamed young governess is hired by a man to take care of his young orphaned niece and nephew. Her only instruction is not to contact the uncle at all. The governess accepts the position at Bly, a large and well-appointed country home. There are a few staff and the niece Flora. The governess is captivated by the goodness of Flora. Her brother Miles is at boarding school, but is suddenly expelled and sent home with no explanation. She finds Miles to be an exceptionally good child as well and cannot imagine that he did anything wrong. The governess begins to see apparitions. She discovers that she is seeing a former handyman and former governess, who were having an affair. They are both since deceased. It becomes clear to her that the ghosts are communicating with the children and the children welcome the relationship. The seemingly innocent children go to great lengths to do the bidding of the ghosts. Disturbing things happen as the governess tries to save the children.
If you like your stories to have a neat and tidy plot and ending, this is not the book for you. Many aspects of the story are unclear, including the motives of the ghosts and the children. It is possible that the governess is insane and there are no ghosts. Personally, I think this is a better ghost story because you are left to wonder. It is more chilling not to have things explained. My only quibble with the book is the writing. Even taking time period into account, the sentences are clunky and cumbersome. I was never able to get into the rhythm of James' writing. For me, this lessened some of the suspense and creepiness of the book. Even so, I am glad I reread it.