- Paperback: 120 pages
- Publisher: Tribeca Books (January 11, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1612930999
- ISBN-13: 978-1612930992
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (805 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #928,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Turn of the Screw
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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.
Novella by Henry James, published serially in Collier's Weekly in 1898 and published in book form later that year. One of the world's most famous ghost stories, the tale is told mostly through the journal of a governess and depicts her struggle to save her two young charges from the demonic influence of the eerie apparitions of two former servants in the household. The story inspired critical debate over the question of the "reality" of the ghosts and of James's intentions. James himself, in his preface to volume XII of The Novels and Tales of Henry James, called the tale a "fable" and said that he did not specify details of the ghosts' evil deeds because he wanted readers to supply their own vision of terror. --The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
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Top Customer Reviews
The book starts with an introduction of a New York physician Dr. Sloper and his only daughter Catherine. While the doctor gained respectable position among the patients, he loses his wife suddenly after the birth of Catherine, who grows up to be a not particularly clever nor beautiful girl. Catherine, painfully shy, becomes a dutiful, but perhaps dull, daughter, the kind of a girl whose awkward behaviors her father approves always with a little detached attitude.
Then, comes a good-looking man Morris Townsend, who has no money but gives a word of "gentleman." But what does that mean when Doctor suspects this is just another fortune hunter, who is seeking for the money Catherine is to inherit after his death? Still, Doctor is half amused, even entertained, by this unexpected visitor who now seems to have gained the love of his daughter. But he didn't expect that Catherine would show surprising obstinate attitude in spite of his threat of disinheriting her.
The book is written, as a whole, with a very tragic note, but as you read on, you will find that, just like Jane Austen's narrator, "Washington Square" has an amusing aspect of comedy at first. The meddling widow Mrs. Penniman, whose wild imagination is one of her weakness, is a good example. She runs around between Morris and Catherine, only to annoy both of them. Henry James's touch when he treats these characters, however, sounds more incisive and even colder than Jane Austen's, if not totally cruel -- and the cruelty is gradually obvious as the plot unfolds.
Our main concern is about Catherine. The story is in itself trite and insignificant (James heard the original episode which the book is based on, in England from actress Fanny Kemble, and the brief note remains), but it is the growth (or change) of the apparently insipid heroine, and the interations between her and other characters (or between those other characters) that always impress us greatly. James's pen ruthlessly cuts into the hearts of those characters, and the intense, skillfully-constructed dialogue which show what is going on in the characters would instantly grip the readers' mind.
Some readers might champion more condensed prose of "The Golden Bowl", deeming "Washington Square" as too lightweight. In a sense, it is, I admit; the novel is not long, and the syntax is very easy to understand (for James, I mean). Still, the book is never dull, always fast-paced (for James, again), and the touching fate of the heroine Catherine is not a thing to be missed.
The novel is turned into films and they are also great, I must add. William Wyler's version is a masterpiece, with Olivia de Havilland/Montgomery Clift/Ralph Richardson trio, but more recent production made in 1997 is also good.
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.