Hollyevans's Reviews > The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
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Dec 01, 11


This is a tricky one. This book is extremely difficult to pin down...so much so that it took me the guts of an hour to decide what rating I'd give it. As a psychological ghost story it succeeds in creating a sense of unease and mystery. But as a story in general, it poses far more questions than it answers leaving the reader confused and unsatisfied.
The main story revolves around a governess who is employed to keep watch over two young children, Flora and Miles, by their absent uncle. Given almost free rein of the house and ordered not to bother the uncle, the governess is initially delighted with her position and her two charges. However all is not as it seems as she witnesses the ghosts of two former employees of the house, Peter Quint and Mrs. Jessel, who had died not too long ago. On top of that she becomes increasingly suspicious of the two children and their relationship with the ghosts and herself.
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If you are expecting a story in which the governess unravels the mystery and ties up all of the loose ends, you will be disappointed. James has sketched the characters just enough for you to get a sense of what they are doing, but not enough to arrive at a definitive reason for why they're doing it. Which, although it undoubtedly gives the book an interesting ambiguity, it also makes for quite frustrating reading. The first half of the book I found particularly disconcerting, with characters seemingly reaching concrete conclusions that made no sense to me as a reader but with the emergence of the children as characters, I found I got into the swing of the story and was quite enjoying it up to its abrupt end.
As a story it is definitely an interesting and engaging read. You can't help but read on to find out what happens next. Just don't be too disappointed if you don't quite understand what that is.
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