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The Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  7,342 ratings  ·  324 reviews
'The apparition had reached the landing half-way up and was therefore on the spot nearest the window, where, at the sight of me, it stopped short'

Oscar Wilde called James's chilling The Turn of the Screw 'a most wonderful, lurid poisonous little tale.' It tells of a young governess sent to a country house to take charge of two orphans, Miles and Flora. Unsettled by a sense
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 272 pages
Published June 26th 2003 by Penguin Books (first published 1898)
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  7,342 ratings  ·  324 reviews

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Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 19-ce, uk
“A Turn of the Screw” is fabulous. I wish all his works, especially his later ones, were as ecstatically readable.
Aug 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Well, you certainly have to concentrate on the prose in this one; be prepared to pay attention.

A classic story with a classic question. Did all this really happen as the governess tells it? Were the children really possessed by the malevolent spirits of their dead servants? Was the governess really a half-crazy repressed old maid victim of Victorian society who in turn victimized her young charges? I prefer the former, but either one is horrifying in its own way.

Although a certain type of woman,
Dec 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: bandolier designers
Shelves: fiction, own

Please note, four stars does not mean I approve of dialogue like this:*

"So she went to -"


She hung fire. "To the gentleman's residence."

"The gentleman's residence?"

"Yes, you know, in case of -"

"Oh, yes, well..."

She hung fire. "He wasn't exactly a gentleman."

"Wasn't a gentleman?"

"No, and it caused problems later -"

"Later? If only it had been sooner."


They hung fire.

"Everything depended on when she went -"

"When she went? Why? Because of -"

"Yes." He hung fire. "Or -"


"Well - you cou
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was planning on buying The Turn which was 3euros but i found this edition with two stories for the same price. didn't expect to care for the second story but i ended up enjoying both of them 👌.
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The Turn of the Screw is a haunting and creepy novella published in 1898 about a female caretaker of two orphaned children in the country home of the children's uncle. The caretaker believes that the house and grounds are haunted. Other people employed at the residence are not sharing the same experiences as the nanny and so it could be that there really is something evil hovering around the country estate or the entire scenario is playing out only in the mind of the nanny. It is up to the reade ...more
Roy Lotz
Feb 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
For the second time, I have had the misfortune of choosing to reading Henry James alongside another difficult author. The first time it was Proust; this time, Joyce. So, instead of getting the desired relief from literary headache, I get an extension of it. But, of course, the fault is mine, not Henry’s.

When reading Henry James’s work, I am reminded of a remark Stephen King made about Stanley Kubrick: that “he thinks too much and feels too little.” One gets the impression that, as Henry wrote,
Dec 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
James is always about thwarted desire and/or sexual repression,
like the man's own life. In "Screw" the sublimated sexuality of the governess turns her into a mental case; she destroys 2 children with her fantasies of corruption. Are the kiddies innocent? I dont think so, but they are sweet. The (deceiving) framework is a ghost story. This fools Dum Reader.

In "Aspern" a naive-repressed editor tries to coax
a crusty dowager and her cock-hungry niece to part with some
historic papers, but the ladies
Holy #spinsterlit, Henry James! The Turn of the Screw is definitely not the frightening story I expected it to be, though it was disquieting and troubling in many aspects. Victorian morality, childhood innocence, claustrophobia, hysteria, and displaced feelings all converge in this deliberately cryptic, ambiguous tale. James' ornate, labyrinthine sentences will either drive you nuts or make you ignore your phone and read with rapt attention, and I had the latter experience. Having read Washingto ...more
Jul 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Ok, I didn't actually read the Aspern Papers, just The Turn of the Screw. It was recommended by a member of our book club.

Firstly, I found it hard going. It often took me two attempts at reading a sentence to understand it clearly. I can't quite put my finger on the problem, it was clearly written in English, but the sentence structure (which was probably perfectly correct) was (in some parts) almost unintelligible.

The story itself is almost as confusing. I actually had to 'Google' it afterwards
Oct 01, 2008 rated it liked it
The Turn of the Screw was quite good, but difficult to read due to the gothic language. The subtle mystery and non-so-subtle supernatural elements were gripping, but the ending left me, at least, still wondering about a few unresolved things.

I had no idea what to expect from The Aspern Papers, but I found it easier to follow than The Turn of the Screw and even enjoyed its lovely Venetian setting and the narrator's attempt to outwit the old lady who possessed the papers in question. I'm not sure
Jun 18, 2017 rated it did not like it
My edition is a Wordsworth, containing two-for-one novellas: The Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers. With a colossal effort and what amounted to skimming, not actual reading, I reached the last page of The Turn of the Screw, which could be one of the dullest, driest, most needlessly verbose and inactive books I've ever read. (What's worse than a book where you have to read the same paragraph ten times, but you're still saying WTF?).
However, I am not going to read The Aspern Papers. I might
Sep 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: big-white-square
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
E. G.
Jul 27, 2011 rated it really liked it

--The Aspern Papers
--The Turn of the Screw

Oct 22, 2017 rated it liked it
I bought this book in order to read The Turn of the Screw and ended up enjoying the other story, The Aspern Papers, more than I did The Turn of the Screw.

The Aspern Papers- 4 Stars
I thought James did an amazing job of building tension in the Aspern Papers. Will the historian get the papers he so longs for? Should he even have them? What will he do to get them? What will the women who possess the papers do to them? And just what is her story? I read this short story with eagerness and bated breat
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
This review is associated with The Aspern Papers--

The Aspern Papers is a brilliant novella written by Henry James and serialized in the Atlantic in 1888. In short, The Aspern Papers is the story of an academic researcher, the novella's narrator, on the trail of bundles of personal letters and writings of a long-dead American poet, 'Jeffrey Aspern'. Apparently, these letters and papers are in the possession of a very old woman, Miss Juliana Bordereau, who lives with her middle-aged niece in an ol
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, 2020
5/5 | english | a strong start into 2020; with these two stories James made it into my top authors of classic literature; history combined with mystery and psychological factors = my cup of tea
Sheree | Keeping Up With The Penguins
You can read my full review of The Turn Of The Screw at Keeping Up With The Penguins.

Henry James could never be accused of being concise. The Turn Of The Screw is what he called a “tale” – a fictional story with a single plot, too long to be a “short story” (today we call them novellas). James loved ghost stories – and he wrote quite a few – but he was bored by the tropes of the genre. He preferred stories that, as he put it, “embroidered the strange and sinister onto the very type of the normal
Melissa Jackson
May 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite short stories, it's absolutely beautiful how creepy this book is. I need to reread it again!

(Even if I can't stare at the cover of this edition for too long without being convinced the children are standing behind me, just waiting. I gave this specific copy to my friend Liz one year for her birthday and upon opening it and being thrilled to finally own it, she shrieked and threw it away from her immediately. Seriously, this cover is horrifying up close.)

The Aspern Papers are
Jun 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
All I got from this book is the answer to the following questions:

1. Which author used so many commas, colons, semi and full, hyphens and exclamation marks, that his over-long sentences became impossible to comprehend?

2. Which fictional character would you most like to push down a long flight of stairs?

All I need now is for someone to ask.....
Micaela Alvi
Taking into account that this was written ages ago, it is a pretty decent horror story. There is always an aura of mystery surrounding the characters and their intentions, even their sanity. And the ending is actually good. Sure, it leaves us with more questions than answers but I think that is the point of the whole story, we will never truly know what happened.
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I re-read this recently and what a glorious creepy tale.. those children little Miles and Flora. Many writers have tried to copy James's skill at leading the reader to the point where they realise the children are involved... in something quite horrible. A short story really but a great read.
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gothic
James wrote some of the best dark fiction of his day, and these two are, for me, his standouts. Elegant, twisted, chilling--this is rich stuff, and like a rich dessert, it forces you to slow down and savor every bite.
Brent Jones
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: before-2000
In the Turn of the Screw by Henry James, the Bachelor is responsible for his niece and nephew after the death of their parents and he hires a woman, the Governess, to take care of his niece and nephew. The story is written as if it happened to the Governess and as she tells the story as if it happened to her.

When she arrives to begin taking care of Flora and Miles, the bachelor's niece and nephew, the governess immediately starts seeing ghosts and learns from the maid that the ghosts are Peter Q
Aug 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
There is something about the classics that just wouldn’t go away. Not that I want it to, I have to add. Every now and then I feel the need for the convoluted language, the turned phrases, the intricately constructed sentences that make my head spin and my mind feel like I’ve just been mentally tortured. And yet, it is a sweet torture, and one I find comfort in from time to time.

The only other book by Henry James I’ve read was "The Portrait of a Lady" and while I wasn’t exactly swept away by it,
Hannah Polley
Sep 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, henry-james
These are two creepy stories by Henry James.

The Aspern Papers - in this story, the main character lies his way into the home of a former lover of his favourite writer. He believes the woman has unpublished material from the writer. He pretends to love the woman's niece and she makes sure they are not destroyed when her aunt dies. However, the niece will only let him see them if he is a relative (marries her) and he walks out in disgust. After taking a night to think about it, he goes back to the
Tom Panzer
I struggled with this one. The dense and archaic language was part of the problem as well as the unreliable narrator and my own lack of knowledge of that era. I’d say this is mostly my own fault as I’m probably naturally resistant to the style however the lack of atmosphere and interesting characters also grated with me. I feel I only made it to the end in the hopes that it would somehow illuminate me (it didn’t.)
Jacqueline Ferguson
19th Century Gothic

A strange book, better read aloud or in your head to get the rhythm correct of the governess writings. Apart from that good gothic book. Remember some of the words have different meanings when it was published.
Sep 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: re-reading
Wasn't as good as I remembered. Is anything ever?
No one seems to do gothic horror and be able to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up as well as Authors from this era; whether they are hinting at insanity or embracing it and giving it coffee, this novella has to rank up there with The Yellow Wallpaper. When the reader first embarks into this tale it would seem the perfect accompaniment to a cold winter night and a cosy fire place, after all it’s short in length and reads fairly quickly if you can come to grips with the style in which ...more
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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

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“I foresaw that I should have a summer after my own literary heart, and the sense of playing with my opportunity was much greater after all than any sense of being played with. There could be no Venetian business without patience, and since I adored the place I was much more in the spirit of it for having laid in a large provision. That spirit kept me perpetual company and seemed to look out at me from the revived immortal face - in which all his genius shone - of the great poet who was my prompter. I had invoked him and he had come; he hovered before me half the time; it was as if his bright ghost had returned to earth to assure me he regarded the affair as his own no less than as mine and that we should see it fraternally and fondly to a conclusion. It was as if he had said: 'Poor dear, be easy with her; she has some natural prejudices; only give her time. Strange as it may appear to you she was very attractive in 1820. Meanwhile, aren't we in Venice together, and what better place is there for the meeting of dear friends? See how it glows with the advancing summer; how the sky and the sea and the rosy air and the marble of the palaces all shimmer and melt together.” 0 likes
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