Bryan Ball's Reviews > The Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers

The Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers by Henry James
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Oct 27, 11

bookshelves: classics, ghost-stories
Read from October 09 to 25, 2011

To say that I had been waiting to read Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw" for sometime would be true. I don't like even discussing the issue of how other reviews, or hype, might influence or have to do with my experience of a work. But I had heard so much about this little novella, seen it so revered among many writers I have enormous amounts of respect for.

And I have to say James lived up to my expectations-- in different ways. I was expecting a ghost story for the ages, and I found what appears to be the grandparent of the modern ghost story, as well as horror fiction, for that matter. You have the story presented as "based on true events," as our narrator reads from a manuscript he has, and presents as true. Within the manuscript you have a young governess and children, living on a secluded, sparse, fog-filled English countryside estate.

As a straight ghost story, the novella works incredibly well; especially, when one considers the fact that the spirits seem out to do physical, present harm to those in the children of the House of Bly. However, readings that involve no such definite specters of the departed appear natural. The governess seems to take a job on a physical attraction toward a man who interviews her for a job, and she cannot seem to even mentally acknowledge crimes and offenses committed against the children she governs by those who formerly cared for them. Repressed sexuality, and suppressed mindsets toward sexual abuse are abundant-- but. I do not believe that is all there is to "The Turn of the Screw." What-- for lack of a better word- is a reality in James' novella appears to be subjective, and purposely elusive-- a true, great literary mystery.
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10/13/2011 page 20
7.0%
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Bryan Ball I'm fascinated by how much the story manages to hook you in, and yet the different narrators use such (likely intentionally) awful techniques. I've noticed several times how awful some of the comparisons are- things are "as charming as a charming story," etc.


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