The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

8/10

This was the first Henry James work I’ve ever read, but this book alone has made me a fan! It’s a classic horror story, with just the right amount of mystery and genuine fear.

My favorite part is that the story is narrated in such a removed fashion; the (unnamed) narrator listens to a man named Douglas read from a manuscript that was written by the governess (the main character of this novella). That the story is told in such a “friend of a friend said that this totally happened to her cousin’s boyfriend’s sister” makes The Turn of the Screw so much like the urban legends we tell today.

Then, the actual meat of the story is so unsettling. The manipulation of the governess’ (and thus the reader’s) emotions is so subtle, that you don’t realize it’s happening until you try to the book down.

I also love the ending, in that we never get a good explanation for what happened. The story just… ends. There’s no clarification, there’s no satisfying explanation. The finale is also reminiscent of the urban legends or scary stories my friends and I would tell each other around the campfire, where the point of the story was to scare someone as much as possible with the final line (and maybe even having another friend jump out of the trees at just the right moment…)

Back to the point at hand… This book is great. It’s also very short, and you can’t put it down, so my experience was that I flew right through it. This is especially nice when you consider that the story was originally published in 1898, so the language is a bit antiquated and some of the scenarios a little harder for modern audiences to imagine.

AND WHAT ABOUT THE MOVIE? There have been several adaptions of the book, as well as several films that have been only slightly based upon the source novella. Some of them are good (and some of them aren’t) but in my opinion nothing really lives up to the source material in respect to the horror.But one stars Dan Stevens, so at least there’s that?

 

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(I know, I know, that’s two times this week that I’ve posted twice in a day! I just can’t walk away without ending on a positive-ish note. It will probably be a couple of days before you hear from me again though, so happy reading!)

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