The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw, Daisy Miller, An International Episode, The Aspern Papers, The Altar of the Dead, The Beast in the Jungle.

Henry James considered “the beautiful and blest nouvelle” to be the “ideal form” for fiction, and to this genre he brought the full perfection of his imaginative artistry. The themes he chose and the values he set forth in the six nouvelles that comprise this Signet Classic typify the depth and power of his craftsmanship – the unique perception of a writer who unerringly deciphers the mind of a gay and flirtatious American girl among the sophisticates of Europe…the motivations of a man who spends a lifetime waiting to experience his “rare and strange” destiny.

“Few Writers of fiction have been so inventive as Henry James,” writes William Thorp. Edmund Wilson commented that “he can be judged only in the company of the very greatest.”

Written by Henry James. This Signet Classic edition published 1980.

‘Tis the season for curling up with a good ol’ gothic ghost story and Turn of the Screw is one of my favourites.

A real ‘treading on eggshells’ sense of suspense pervades this novella, with everything you need for a chilling winter night’s reading.

Originally published in 1898 the best thing about this novella  is how artfully James sows the seeds of doubt as to whether the ghosts are real or imagined. Personally I made up my mind years ago the governess was completely barking and not the kind of person you’d want to leave alone with your kids; the conversation she has with the housekeeper after her first sighting of Quint being a great example of how easy people can mislead each other into believing whatever they want to believe.

Lots of people disagree however and the ambiguity is part of what makes this tale so engrossing. At times the children are almost as sinister as the ghosts and having read this a few times I still find myself asking questions. Henry James’ prose weaves a masterful spell of psychological suspense  by allowing the reader room to draw their own conclusions. The isolated setting, unspoken secrets and spiralling emotions all contribute toward creating a truly spooky atmosphere with a shocking climax.

And though Turn of the Screw is the most well known piece in this collection, the other novellas are worth a mention – in particular Altar of the Dead, one of my favourite stories ever.

The cover art is lovely and a very distinctive style. 5 out of 5 stars.


Advertisements