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The Turn of the Screw

3.40  ·  Rating details ·  134,294 ratings  ·  11,241 reviews
Whether viewed as a subtle, self-conscious exploration of the haunted house of Victorian culture, filled with echoes of sexual and social unease, or simply as "the most hopelessly evil story we have ever read," The Turn of the Screw is probably the most famous of ghostly tales and certainly the most eerily equivocal. This new edition includes three rarely reprinted ghost s ...more
Paperback, Penguin Popular Classics, 121 pages
Published April 16th 1994 by Penguin (first published April 16th 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 "giv…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)
György This is addressed in chapter 7, explained by Mrs. Grose. Put shortly, Miss Jessel was upper class, Quint was lower class, and they liked to play it ro…moreThis is addressed in chapter 7, explained by Mrs. Grose. Put shortly, Miss Jessel was upper class, Quint was lower class, and they liked to play it rough (sex) and in fact allowed themselves to be seen in the act by other servants. This behaviour between classes was something unspoken of, something incredibly taboo, but that doesn't mean it never happened in the real world of the 19th century.

If you are analysing it from the point of view of the governess/narrator, it becomes a little more ambiguous because she never explicitly explains what exactly could be 'evil' in their influence over Miles and Flora. (less)

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Average rating 3.40  · 
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Justin Tate
I hate when I don't love a classic. It makes me feel stupid, like I'm too ignorant to comprehend literary brilliance. I'm particularly disappointed in myself for not loving The Turn of the Screw, because I'm such a huge fan of all things ghastly and Gothic. And this is both!

But it's true. I didn't care for it. The governess appears seemingly out of thin air, lacks personality or any believable motivation. Her obsession with the children is either utter nonsense or perversely sexual. Neither opti
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Sep 07, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: literature
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeffrey Keeten
Nov 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gothic
“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!”

 photo the-innocents-1961_zpsjib312lw.jpg
Screen shot from the 1961 version of The Innocents based on the James short story.

A governess is hired to look after the nephew and niece of a man who has inherited the responsibility for the children after the death of their parents. He is very explicit in his instructions to the governess that he is not to be bothered wit
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
Jul 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 moder
Sean Gibson
Aug 14, 2017 rated it liked it
There is a presumption that a book, if written concurrent with a certain time period during which a ruler of notable longevity reigned and originating from an area of the world long known, during that time period in particular, for an effusiveness of style in excess of that which may be, at a minimum, absolutely required to convey a particular message or idea, may, on occasion, if not predominantly and generally, tend toward a style that, when compared and contrasted with styles of later writers ...more
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Me at 50%:

And 75%. And 90%.

I was actually really excited to read this classic Henry James novella, a gothic ghost story published in 1898. A young woman is hired to be the governess for two young orphans by their uncle, whose good looks and charm impress the governess. She wants to impress him in turn with her capability, especially when his main command to her is that she never, NEVER, bother him with any problems or concerns.

She's packed off to the uncle's country estate to meet young Flora a
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Turn of the Screw, Henry James

The Turn of the Screw, originally published in 1898, is a novella written by Henry James.

The story, a part of Gothic and ghost story genres, first appeared in serial format in Collier's Weekly magazine (27 January – 16 April 1898).

An unnamed narrator listens to Douglas, a friend, read a manuscript written by a former governess whom Douglas claims to have known and who is now dead. The manuscript tells the story of how the young governess is hired by a man who
Oct 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was looking for a spooky fall read but I've found this entangling novella that has a lot of material that is simply calling me to analyze it. Besides, reading this work as just a ghost story would be quite unsatisfying. Henry's writing is at the same time brilliant, confusing, convoluted, perplexed and ambiguous. His meandering prose creates the perfect atmosphere of both a haunted mansion and a mind gone mad. It is never direct, precise, solid but subtle, with double entendres and concealed m ...more
Redonkulous! Where's my SPOOKY?!
I mean, I thought I'd get a few good jump scares out of a book with possessed children in it. You know what didn't happen, not even once, while I was listening to this book?


I'm not sure why my teenage self thought The Turn of the Screw was worth 4 stars, but my older-than-teenage self certainly doesn't.
On the surface, it seems like this should be a winner for me in the classic department - short, scary...short. But it was kinda crap.

So the gist is that t
The Turn of the Screw is another classic I have been meaning to read for years. I didn't know much about it, but it has come up a lot lately in my Goodreads discussions and other books I have read. I was surprised to find out that it is a gothic horror story. Not really sure what I was expecting, but I guess I just had the stereotypical classic novel with people in old clothes with an antique setting on the cover. I know, I know - bad Matthew! Don't judge a book by its cover!

This book reminded m
Oct 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: horror
The plot of this classic Gothic book is well-known, so I will hit only the high points. A governess is hired by an English gentleman to take care of his orphaned nephew and niece. The only big condition for her work: she will never ever bother the guy with the problems with the kids. I could never figure out whether it was his eccentricity, or he just did not care about the kids much.

The governess' first impression of the place was very favorable and the kids were adorable. Add to this good sal
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: british imagination had, in a flash, turned real. He did stand there!

I could not decide whether I was more intrigued by the Gothic thriller or the intricate jalebi of the prose, a truly - truly - labyrinthine prose, which James employs with great effect for the purpose of dissimulation. (Folks would later dub it 'unreliable narration.') You can trust James to phrase the most simplest of ideas and situations in the most imaginative of ways without making a fool of you; but if you still insist on cl
Henry Avila
What is real , something you see but no one else does, things stare back at you then vanish into the nothingness of oblivion, images that cannot be solid ...ARE YOU GOING INSANE ? Such is the plot of the famous Henry James novella ...The Turn of the Screw, more a study of psychological turmoil than pure terror, yet it has it too. A young unnamed woman takes a job as governess to two small children in an old house called Bly, in rural England, set in the 1800's, she needs the money desperately , ...more
Paul Bryant
Jun 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: litcrit

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
Oct 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Instead of bananas or tacos, I have no doubt Henry James would have been the sort of man who chose instead to have commas on his boxer shorts. I always thought of Henry James as unnecessarily long winded and so always avoided his books, and though I wasn't wrong, his books, not all of them at least, aren't the unreadable tomes I always considred them to be. I suspect that may only be able to handle him in short form, however.

As to the actual story, I was hooked. It reminded me of a recent movie
Mar 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recs, 2020
A strange tale about a repressed young governess who, fearing her employer’s estate is haunted by malevolent spirits, sets out to protect her pair of pupils from harm at any cost. Told from the governess’s increasingly erratic perspective, the plot revolves around her loss of contact with reality, charting her slow descent into paranoia and despair. The pacing’s jerky and the characterization’s paper thin, but the work’s full of perplexing mysteries and heavy-handed queer subtext that’s interest ...more
"It was as if, while I took in—what I did take in—all the rest of the scene had been stricken with death. I can hear again, as I write, the intense hush in which the sounds of evening dropped. The rooks stopped cawing in the golden sky, and the friendly hour lost, for the minute, all its voice. But there was no other change in nature, unless indeed it were a change that I saw with a stranger sharpness."
Oh, I was not scared (maybe just a little?) the last two days reading the The Turn of the
2.5 stars rounded up.

A young governess is hired to care for the young niece and nephew of an unmarried man who acts as guardian of the two following the death of their parents. One condition must be upheld, however – the governess is not for any reason or by any means to contact her new employer. This seemed to me a daunting task and one which I am not certain would appeal to me in the least. The young governess, however, is charmed by the gentleman and agrees to his request. Her story, detaile
Paul Bryant
Sep 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spooky-ookums, novels

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
Dec 09, 2020 rated it did not like it
Welcome back to the newest edition of Tim has an unpopular opinion. I'll be your host today, and my, do I have a show for you.

I hate it when I don't like a classic. People immediately assume that you don't get it or that you need to look at it from the point of view of the readers at the time of publication. I know. I've put in my time reading classics in the past and frequently still do for fun.

Sometimes you simply just don't like a book.

Honestly, I should have loved this. I love ghost stories.
5 stars to Henry James's The Turn of the Screw.

Perhaps America's greatest writer from our Realistic period, James's ghost story sets itself above all the rest -- and he has a lot to choose from. Consider this story a nanny's mind game - but who is in control?

I studied James in my college years, even dedicating an entire semester to several of his works as one of my independent studies in my English major. Something about the way James told stories spoke to me, and I felt a connection to him as
 Danielle The Book Huntress
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
Jun 15, 2016 rated it liked it
I often embrace the notion of writing being superior than plot to the extent of salvaging a lackluster body of the latter, very close to my heart. And it is stories like these that realign my reading meter in that direction.

Henry James’ story has no flaws per se; instead, has a pollen bearing promise to turn into a full feather. A series of apparition that haunts the governess of a house, driving her to cast her net of suspicion across all the residents, primarily the children, makes for a premi
Jan 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
2.5 Stars. GEESH.......Glad it's over! Great set-up to draw in the reader with the anticipated narration of an eerie old manuscript, but Whew! What a verbose read!

I usually love, love, love old creepy gothic horror stories, but this one (to me) was not scary or eerie or even very atmospheric. Now, there were a couple of "sightings" in a window, one in particular that made me think......oh we go, but my hopes were soon short lived.

Besides a couple of suspicious deaths and the strang

Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Without giving anything away, what I love about this story is the creepy atmosphere and the ambiguity, right up to the ambiguity of the ending, where James doesn't quite resolve the competing images that he's placed in the reader's mind--images of what exactly has happened to the children and who exactly the governess is (mad? murderous? a witness to supernatural possession?). ...more
I failed to hang on to this fantastic story where nothing was happening. The "tension" builds up well throughout the story, the end sentence is striking, but I got bored, waiting for something to happen. In addition, the descriptions of situations or feelings are sometimes quite convoluted, especially in the opening. A disappointment, therefore. ...more
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Ghost Story or An Intense Psychological Study
Blue & Black or Gold & White

This ghost story/novella, written by Henry James and published in 1898, has generated considerable debate among writers, readers and critics over the hundred plus years since, on whether it's a ghost story (e.g., Truman Capote) or a character study (e.g., Edmund Wilson). Your interpretation largely turns on whether you believe the unnamed female governess is mad. If so, you see this as a character study of a woman who
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Delectable ambiguity

Is the young, nameless governess in charge of two creepily perfect children losing her mind? Or are there ghosts on the premises, appearing to and influencing the kiddies, and scaring her half to death? This is the see-saw you'll ride when you read this, and there's no right answer. Though, there are plenty of academics and otherwise who have argued both sides.

If you think you're going to read this book, and "figure it out", forget about it. It was written with artful cle
Finally, a mystery that I really like. A creepy Gothic mystery. The question is if the governess is crazy. Are the apparitions only in her head? I will not tell you what else she does. Or does she? You are meant to think. You are not reading this to be given definitive answers. We each draw our own conclusion. I like the ambiguity. I like that readers can discuss this from all different angles.

I like this novella because it grabs your attention right from the start, and then it never lets you g
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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

Articles featuring this book

In literature, the term “Gothic” is a notoriously slippery designation. Ask a dozen English professors what it means, and you’ll get a dozen...
28 likes · 3 comments
“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!” 68 likes
“Of course I was under the spell, and the wonderful part is that, even at the time, I perfectly knew I was. But I gave myself up to it; it was an antidote to any pain, and I had more pains than one.” 61 likes
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