Stephen Hayes's Reviews > Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories by Henry James
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bookshelves: fantasy, our-books

Nearly 50 years ago someone found a copy of The Turn of the Screw in an old house where I was staying. I recognised the author as someone quite famous, and recalled that some of his books had been set for English literature classes at the university I attended. So I read it. After a couple of chapters it seemed familiar, and I realised that the plot was the same as that of a film I had seen about ten years previously, called The Innocents.

I was rather put off by the turbid (and turgid) style, but the story was interesting enough.

When I saw this volume of collected ghost stories by Henry James, I thought it might be interesting, and it was long enough since I had read The Turn of the Screw to want to read that one again. But having reached the end, I'm pretty sure I don't want to read any more of Henry James. The last story in the volume, "The Jolly Corner" was excruciatingly boring, and could probably have been told better if cut down to two or three pages. It was lengthened by the need to read every sentence two or three times to find out what the author was saying.

When I was about 9 or 10 years old a school teacher used to read ghost stories to us, and part of the attraction, at that age, was how scary they were. They were set in unusual places and described unusual circumstances, and that in itself set the scene for unusual and scary happenings. Now I've become old and jaded, and it takes a lot to scare me. Instead I look for a meaning beyond the surface. A ghost story needs to be more than just scary, it needs some kind of symbolic meaning, which Henry James doesn't really provide.

It was one of those instances where the film was better than the book. The film told the story directly, rather than inundating it with a lorry-load of subordinate clauses.

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Reading Progress

August 24, 2019 – Started Reading
August 24, 2019 – Shelved
August 24, 2019 – Shelved as: fantasy
August 24, 2019 – Shelved as: our-books
August 24, 2019 –
page 110
October 18, 2019 –
page 180
November 1, 2019 –
page 320
November 4, 2019 – Finished Reading

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