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The Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  7,593 ratings  ·  350 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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Oct 27, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Henry James is quite innovative and bold with unlikeable or unreliable narrators in these two stories

The foreword to this edition of The Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers was really flowery (and the academical one was rather spoilery), which made me very scared of how I would like Henry James his writing style, but both ended up being very solid tales.
Interestingly enough I liked the Aspern Papers (close to four stars for me) more than the more famous Turn of the Screw (three stars).

Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 19-ce, uk, fiction
“A Turn of the Screw” is fabulous. I wish all his works, especially his later ones, were as ecstatically readable.
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
Rebecca Maye Holiday
These two gothic tales by Henry James are eerily isolating and yet intriguing at the same time; The Turn of the Screw especially reminded me vaguely of a Shirley Jackson story, as James keeps explanations subtle and focuses on the creepy atmosphere and peculiar characters. The writing of these stories is often dry, and the dialogue between characters can be somewhat clumsy. Still, the madness of the unreliable narrator in The Turn of the Screw is truly an experience, begging the question in thes ...more
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,
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 👌. ...more
The Turn of The Screw

I never thought it would be possible to tell a ghost story in such a dry manner but here we are, Henry James, you’ve done it.
The Jane-Eyre duplicate governess, dreaming about the master of the house while taking care of his nephew and niece becomes entangled in a poltergeist web. Or does she? Do they really exist or is she mad? Well we can safely say that she is mad as she goes nuts over a letter but calmly meets the phantom of the dead governess? She is hysterical, her reac
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,
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
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Oct 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
The writing is excellent and had a gothic almost romantic feel to it. I am not a fan of the genre but can still appreciate well thought out plot. May even read more ot James short stories.
Nancy Oakes
I've really only finished "Turn of the Screw," which I quite liked. I'll get to "The Aspern Papers" and then come back to post about this book as a whole. ...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
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
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
I've had at least as much fun reading commentary about the novella The Turn of the Screw as I did the work itself. This is classic Goth horror- with ghosts and governesses, creaky mansions and eerily ethereal tots. Is our heroine, who falls in love at the drop of a kerchief, the victim of a household haunting conspiracy or is she merely batty? What was the sinister exploit that got Miles expelled from boarding school? What connivances is Flora calculating behind her angelic blues? To whose insan ...more
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
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.
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.....
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
Trigger warnings: death, death of a child, manipulation.

3.5 stars.

I honestly don't have a lot of thoughts about this, which surprises me a little because I've heard over and over about how creepy The Turn of the Screw is. And yet.

I think in both cases, these are stories that I would have appreciated more if I a) had studied them in detail and b) hadn't read them consistently at like 10.45pm when I was half asleep. Because, like, I just went and read the Wikipedia pages for both of them and ce
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
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
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. ...more
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.
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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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