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The Turn of the Screw

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  47,863 ratings  ·  2,971 reviews
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 sto ...more
Paperback, 87 pages
Published 1991 by Dover Thrift Editions (first published 1898)
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Nemo So basically what he's saying is, If you think having a child involved in a scary situation makes it creepier, how about two children? He's using…moreSo basically what he's saying is, If you think having a child involved in a scary situation makes it creepier, how about two children? He's using "giving a turn of the screw" as an expression to mean "making it more intense". The guests answering "they give two turns" is them agreeing that it would indeed double the effect.(less)
Nola Redd There's also an implication that they sexually molested the children, which I first thought as I read and then saw again on wikipedia:

'Poet and…more
There's also an implication that they sexually molested the children, which I first thought as I read and then saw again on wikipedia:

'Poet and literary critic Craig Raine, in his essay "Sex in nineteenth-century literature", states quite categorically his belief that Victorian readers would have identified the two ghosts as child molesters'(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Paquita Maria Sanchez
Now you see me,
description you don’t..
What the...

Meaning, understanding and certainty all become elusive chimera in this ambiguous game of hide-and-seek that Henry James plays with us. Have you ever been in one of those weird situations where you wondered if you were losing your mind, doubting whether what you were seeing was real? And... what it was that you were seeing?



This is one of those "what the heck??" novels that you often find in the modernist genre. Not originally classed as a modernist
Turn of the Screw is a pretty cool story. It's about a governess who either heroically attempts to protect her two charges from malevolent ghosts or goes dangerously bonkers. James leaves it ambiguous and I love that kind of story. Ambiguity works for me. Four stars for the plot. Kindof an abrupt ending though.

On the other hand there's his writing style. I was at this party once and the topic was what would you do if the world was ending and the answer was generally that we would have all the se
Catriona (LittleBookOwl)
2.5 stars.
Interesting, this one...
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja)
Reading this story was a lot like standing in line opening weekend for a blockbuster you waited a year to see, and being underwhelmed. I was disappointed. I've heard about this story as being one of the best ghost stories ever written. I was so excited to read it. So excited was I, I had to download it to my Kindle to read right away, even though I have this story in one of my paperback collections. I love psychological horror, but I don't think a good psychological horror novel should leave the ...more
Paul Bryant

Paranormal Activity 6 : The Turn of the Screw



Anyway, great story, but I must mention three STYLISTIC ISSUES which may perhaps GRATE on the less patient reader.

1) In The Turn of the Screw, as in a lot of HJ’s stuff, people like to finish each other’s sentences :

“But aren’t they all – “
“Sent home? Yes.” P33

“Did she see anything in the boy –“
“That wasn’t right? She never told me.” P 36

“He c
Paul Bryant

It is the worst thing in the world to leave children with servants.
Maria Edgeworth , Practical Education, 1798

Of all the vulgar superstitions of the half educated, none dies harder than the absurd delusion that there is no such thing as ghosts.
William T Stead, Real Ghost Stories, 1897

The T of the S is a very mechanical matter, I honestly think – an inferior, a merely pictorial, subject and rather a shameless pot-boiler.
Henry James in a letter, 1898

Come, let us enter what Wayne Booth called “t
Jason Koivu
I'm quite upset! Henry James scared the bejeezus out of me and I demand he put it back! I loved my bejeezus...

The Turn of the Screw is old school horror. More eerie and creepy rather than horrid and ghastly, but effective in its ability to scare with atmosphere and suggestion. What better setting to do so than the cold, damp and lonesome English countryside?
Nov 07, 2007 Kelly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: brit lit fans, people who like psychological readings of texts
Creepy. Twisty-turny. Ghosts. Weird kids. Unreliable, possibly insane narrator. Henry James, is there no genre that you will not poke your head into?

No, really. It's interesting though. On the surface, this story is perfect to curl up by the fire with on a cold winter's night. Which is exactly how the book is framed, by the way. As a story told in front of a fireside on a cold winter's night. It's short, it reads quickly, and is open to pretty much whatever you want to make of it. James lets yo
Dec 08, 2010 Mariel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I died so I could haunt you
Recommended to Mariel by: opinions versus the sun
The Turn of the Screw takes place in multiple rooms in my brain. It hasn't taken up shop in my heart. It's a cold feeling, so the echo is made against stone walls that don't touch the rest of me. It's rare for a Henry James story to go there. If it does, it's in a "I hope that never happens to me" mental knee jerk way. I can't sort out how I feel about it because I'm caught up in the primordial longings. How the hell did they get there? I'm one to half convince myself it never happened, open you ...more
Henry James is tough and I find his text to be pretty convoluted. I have this "joke": the average letter count/word in this book is about 9. Of course, it's not, but I vaguely remember the need to read this book with a dictionary. That probably only makes me less educated.
It's also old, so the ghost story is not at all thrilling or causing a "page-turner" status. The same thing happens over and over again and it's "scary", all to arrive at an ambiguous climax that is interesting, but not really
Dec 31, 2012 Mosca rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who dares


Count me among the impressed. This is an extraordinary work.

But first a short introduction, I’ve read for my entire six decades of life. I’m college educated; but I have no Literary education past high school, nor have I any real background concerning Henry James other than a failed high school book report on Daisy Miller. I’ve read a very brief review on the internet by an admired friend who gave away little, but expressed an enormous respect for this work. Howev

In both literature and film I've always avoided horror stories, ghost stories and other narratives in which the supernatural features prominently. Call me a wuss, but that's the way it is for me. This may be the reason I've not read this novella before. The other reason may be that my only two prior experiences of reading Henry James are mixed. I liked The Portrait of a Lady (read circa 1976) and I remember nothing about The Golden Bowl (read circa 1978) other than that my university lecturer sa
Don't read this on a dark November night!!!

I was not in the mood last night to plunge into my current buddy read, so I turned to this classic Kindle freebie. It was short. The perfect bed-time story. NOT.

Scary as anything and seriously weird. At least five or six times I literally had chills running down my back and once I finished I couldn't sleep. I'm still not sure what it was all about, but I felt better when I saw from reviews on Goodreads that hundreds and hundreds of professor-types have
Petra X
"The Turn of the Screw" is an intense psychological tale of terror. It begins in an old house on Christmas Eve. It is the story of a Governess who comes to live with and take care of two young children. The Governess loves her new position in charge of the young children, however she is soon disturbed when she begins to see ghosts."

Really? I thought it was boring and dated and just a bit silly. It would make a good B movie and that's about it's level, for me anyway.
I absolutely loved this. There is quite a lot of controversy linked with this story, and what was really happening. Was there really evil? Was the Governess mad?

The end is rather inconclusive and leaves the reader to decide for themselves.

I thought it was very compelling and well written. James did a really good job of writing from a young woman’s perspective. Especially at the beginning I found her incredibly endearing and oh-so-GIRLY. Over a hundred years later I found it still felt current in
This book was excruciatingly verbose -- the story could have been told in 30 pages. Other than that, not a bad tale.
Actually, I didn't finish it. For a long time, I figured that Henry James was just too "smart" for me. That may be the case, as I usually read in bed and don't like having to think too much to parse a sentence. However, Henry James, and many others from his generation, writes in such a way that I have to really think about each sentence to comprehend it. Not what I want from a book. Too many commas in each sentence, and he, as I attempt to do in this sentence, attempts that I too often fail at, ...more
Spooky old house, creepy kids, very nicely narrated free audiobook. What’s not to like? Just about everything else as far as I am concerned. The protagonist is a gabby unnamed governess who sees dead people but ain’t afraid of no ghosts. In the meantime there is something very fishy about the two beautiful children in her charge, I imagine their omega-3 level must be through the roof.

Seriously though, one must not diss the classics even if one does not like them, it is very bad form. Certainly w
I’m sure that ever since human-like hominids have had both fire and the ability to speak, we’ve been telling each other creepy stories and sleeping uneasily afterwards. These tales are best shared around a campfire, to simulate the ancient experience—when fires and candles cast flickering light and we were free to imagine all kinds of weird creatures around us in the dark.

Even with modern electricity, I found myself sometimes unwilling to read this book after dark—I’m entirely too suggestible w
Dec 20, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ghost hunters and 1001 books readers
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
Henry James uses The Turn of the Screw to highlight the fact that small children can be both sinister and scary!

In 1898, many authors were busily portraying children as sweetness and light (or not mentioning them at all); it was an age and a time when children were to be "seen and not heard". James instead plays on many peoples worst (although at that point possibly unrealised fears) and highlights the fact that as innocents they are succeptible and can easily be picked off by sinister servants
I was not as impressed as I think I should have been by James' prose, yet I think I was left shaken by the shadows in the interstices between the narrator's words. In fact, James' prose was tedious and sometimes downright irritating. But irritating in the way a fern tickling your nose might be irritating when you're trying to spy on someone from behind some plants. Or tedious in the way that brick dust rubs up against your whiskery half-shaven beard when you are trying to surreptitiously peek ar ...more
Nov 08, 2011 Mark rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: governesses, rich uncles who abrogate their responsibilities, brats of the upper classes
Recommended to Mark by: Quint
Have just re-read this for the bookclub which i attend here at home in which I get to see the people as well as hear their comments. This is still, in my opinion, one of the scariest ghost stories around.

James is brilliant as he never tells us whether it all issues forth from some form of genuine demonic possession, evil gropings from the ghostly fiends, over-wrought repressed 'spinstervenge', some sort of sexual predation by the governess or just a particularly badly behaved and precocious bra
No, no—there are depths, depths! The more I go over it, the more I see in it, and the more I see in it, the more I fear. I don’t know what I don’t see—what I don’t fear!
That's the typical reader's reaction to reading major-phase James. Actually it's a quote from Turn of the Screw, but it aptly fits both descriptions anyway. Henry James has depths (depths!) and the more you go over him, read him, learn to love him, the more you see in his writing. He's intimidating, certainly, he has that kind
Chiara Pagliochini
“Oh, sì, possiamo star qui sedute a guardarli, e loro possono darcela a bere sin che vogliono; ma persino quando fingono d’esser perduti nelle loro fiabe, sono sprofondati nella visione dei morti che ritornano.”

Ho letto questo romanzo per la prima volta tre o quattro anni fa e ora, con un esame di letteratura inglese alle porte (toc toc!), ho considerato opportuna una rilettura. Ed è straordinario che mi sorprenda e mi confonda ora come allora.

Cito dal retro-copertina,“un testo fondamentale del
Liz* Fashionably Late
Good old school horror story. Open ending. Different interpretations.
Which is a big problem for me because I hate loose ends.

In my humble opinion,(view spoiler)
Stephen M
Since Paquita (no surprise!) summed up my reading experience far more succinctly than I ever could, I'll just link you to her awesome little review here .

I think for people who don't mind complex, difficult sentences written in 19th century prose, then this book is really not too bad.

I just spent far too much time trying to figure out what James was saying (and thus what was going on), that the tension (or "turn of the screw") was lost on me—which I felt was a crucial part of the novella; it's
As most other reviewers have mentioned, Henry James' writing is extremely...dense. Sometimes while I was reading I had a vision of myself as a jungle explorer wielding a machete against the encroaching undergrowth, trying to find the path. Most of the time I enjoyed the challenge, but I have to admit that there were times I gave up on a particular sentence(s) and skipped ahead. Once you get past the style of writing, The Turn of the Screw is a story about...well, it's about "something". What tha ...more
Even though this is a classic, this short novel didn't come to my full attention until finding it mentioned in H.P. Lovecraft's essay, Supernatural Horror in Literature. Since that essay tends to expose the full plot of some of the stories, I skipped the write-up on Screw in order to read it fresh. Some nine years later, I finally sat down to read it.

The first thing that struck me was the verboseness of the language, and with it, the overuse of commas. James, in constructing his sentences, seem
A governess is in charge of two orphan children, taken care of by their uncle who works in London and never wants to be disturbed. Then, suddenly, the governess begins to see two phantoms, a man and a woman, near the children, and suspects that the latter know about these ghosts.

It's a chilling story, with gothic elements similar to ”The woman in black” and references to ”Jane Eyre”, but it's not as thrilling as it's reputation. Perhaps the reason is Henry James writing style, of course rich, bu
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Henry James, OM, son of theologian Henry James Sr., brother of the philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James, was an American-born author, one of the founders and leaders of a school of realism in fiction. He spent much of his life in England and became a British subject shortly before his death. He is primarily known for a series of major novels in which he portrayed the ...more
More about Henry James...
The Portrait of a Lady Daisy Miller The Wings of the Dove Washington Square The Golden Bowl

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“No, no—there are depths, depths! The more I go over it, the more I see in it, and the more I see in it, the more I fear. I don’t know what I don’t see—what I don’t fear!” 19 likes
“He was there or was not there: not there if I didn't see him.” 12 likes
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