Billed as a loose retelling of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, Tighter at first follows the original plot closely and then spirals into Adele’s unique creation. The transition is flawless, using the setup and features of the original story as a backdrop and then spinning the reader into a story that is both completely different and yet still fully compliments The Turn of the Screw. It is not necessary to have read or even liked The Turn of the Screw to enjoy Tighter. The story updates and pays homage to the original, but it is a fully developed story that stands perfectly well on its own.
I have read The Turn of the Screw, so I had a ton of fun picking out all of the little references and ways Adele wove in the original with her new story. I am curious to hear a review of this book from the perspective of someone who has not read The Turn of the Screw.
As with the original, I did not like the main character of this book. Jamie has an attitude, is addicted to prescription pills, and makes terrible choices. She isn’t someone I would want to be friends with at all. If I wasn’t familiar with the original, I think I might have been turned off to the story because of my inability to connect with Jamie. Usually, if I can’t connect with the main character (or even like them), then I stop reading the book.
Having read the original, however, I knew that you’re not supposed to necessarily like the main character, so please, please, please don’t let Jamie turn you off to this book! The beauty of James’ book is not just that it is a chilling ghost story, but that it is also a fantastic study of an unreliable narrator. Both the ghostly happenings and the unreliable narrator are retained in Tighter, leaving the reader constantly questioning whether the events of the story are a result of a supernatural haunting, Jamie’s state of mind, or a frightening mix of both.
Even though I didn’t like Jamie as a person, she was a fantastic narrator. Jamie’s voice is strong and clear. Her haziness and confusion as a result of the pills she is constantly popping amplifies the reader’s uncertainty and sense of peril, but the plot never feels convoluted or difficult to follow. The pieces of the mystery come together at a good pace, but only half of these pieces are apparent clues.
There are clues laid from the very first page, but these are the type of clues that you don’t realize are important until the climax of the story. At that point everything clicks into place and I couldn’t help but immediately flip back and read whole passages of the book again with this new knowledge. I kept gleefully exclaiming, “Ah ha! I see it now!” realizing how, even having read the original, Adele’s subtle tweaks added an entirely new feature that completely surprised me and left me delighted. These features make this book an excellent candidate for rereading. I think I would discover and notice a ton of little hints and clues I missed on my first reading.
After the startling climax the story winds down and I felt content with the way Adele chose to end the book. But then…just when I thought the events were resolved one way a final bit of information on the very last page turns events around again and all of my suspicions and questions I thought were resolved came flooding back again. This was excellent! I didn’t realize the ending could get better, but then it did! I loved the way the author chose to end this book and I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better resolution.
The only reason I rated this four instead of five stars is because I would have liked a little more. This may be a bit unfair, but because the author’s writing was so enthralling and because her plot twists were so exciting I found myself wanting more. I wish the ghostly parts had been expanded just a little bit more. They were scary (and some really were downright chilling), but I wanted them to be just a little bit scarier, or more of them. I wish the secrets Jamie uncovered about the deaths were just a little…juicier and developed just a little bit more.
Adele is a National Book Award finalist and it is easy to see why. Tightly plotted, well paced, and beautifully written, Tighter pulled me in from the very beginning and, days after having finished, it still hasn’t let me go. I read this one for my Gothic Reading Challenge, and I highly recommend it to readers looking for a good ghost story, a contemporary read, a classic retelling, or a creepy Gothic tale. This is the first book I have read by Adele Griffin, but it won’t be the last.
Book received through Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.
Originally posted at Small Review
I received a copy of this book for review through Goodreads First Reads free of charge in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my review.