Michael's Reviews > The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
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's review
Jul 30, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, mystery, 1001-books-you-must-read-before-you, england
Read in June, 2008

Surprisingly engaging for a ghost story written in 1898, with the added benefit of the writing art of a master. Like Hitchcock, much of the suspense is placed in the mind of the main character, and thus the reader, and not with certainty in a consensual reality clearly shared by the other characters. A governess takes charge of two perfectly behaved children in a rural estate in Essex in the absence of the guardian uncle. She experiences appearances of sometimes a male and sometimes a female adult, whom she learns from a housekeeper must be the ghosts of a former governess and servant who died under mysterious circumstances and whom she infers were illicit lovers. Her motivation to overcome her fears and protect the children is paramount, and becomes even stronger when she infers the children are secretly consorting with the ghosts and are at risk for some kind of possession or corruption. Literary critics have debated the ambiguity over her sanity. My interpretation is that the tale is a metaphor for the challenges of raising a child with the right amount of freedom versus protection and perhaps an allegory for the tricky path humans take in choosing paths between good and evil in the world. Some evidence for this view lies in this statement near the end when she is struggling to get the boy to reveal his real perceptions: �It was like fighting with a demon for a human soul, and when I had fairly so appraised it I saw how the human soul�held out, in the tremor of my hands, at arm's length�had a perfect dew of sweat on a lovely childish forehead.
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03/25 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Apatt (last edited Mar 24, 2015 09:26PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Apatt This must be one of your earliest review as it's peppered with those funny � characters I remember so well from when I started following your reviews (I even "liked" this one previously). You have the faculty to appreciate the book better than I ever could!

Michael Apatt wrote: "...You have the faculty to appreciate the book better than I ever could! "

Makes me a pushover or mental whore. However, using the business measure of customer satisfaction where a person checks off that they will use the services again I never did pursue another Henry James. Dabbled with Toibin's fictional story from James' life with The Master, but that was a dud for me. His brother Willie is more interesting to me.

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