Jonathan Lee's Reviews > The Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers

The Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers by Henry James
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Nov 01, 2011

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Turn of the Screw is a fascinating novel, made intentionally ambiguous to allow us to interpret its events in a variety of ways. However, it's needlessly complicated and hard to follow at times. Even though this book should be a goldmine for literary analysis, I often found myself misunderstanding the point of a particularly cumbersome sentence, clouding my ability to interpret what happened. If it's that hard to understand the literal meaning, it's just going to be even harder to find the hidden meanings and subtleties in the book.

The book does have many positive qualities. The protagonist, the governess, is a multi-layered character with good intentions who commits - depending on your interpretation of her - wildly misguided actions. Trying to decide whether she was truly crazy or not was a rewarding experience. James writes the ghosts and children in an appropriately haunting manner, and the book is never boring. Yet despite these qualities, Turn of the Screw is still burdened by its at-times incomprehensible prose style, and as I read it, I finished each chapter wondering whether I had missed something.

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