Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Turn of the Screw

‘I avoided it like the plague’; I can’t say that this common phrase exactly fits my feeling towards Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw (271 pages). On the other hand, from what I had been told of this novel in the past I can say that I did avoid it like a sickness. But sadly being an English Literature student, my professors sometimes sneeze all over my avoidances by adding books like this to the syllabus.

Although I had no great love for this book, I did decide to start reading the novel with an open mind. However, I wasn’t exactly rewarded for my open-mindedness. I say this only because I did not fully enjoy the plot of the novella whatsoever.

The opening scene of the book, with it’s introduction of some terrible story, lead me to believe that I would be on the edge of my seat with a riveting story of peril. What I found on the majority of the pages were incredibly long and drawn out descriptions of the thoughts and feelings of the main character (the unnamed narrator); no of which gave me the remotest feeling of curiosity or excitement.

I found the two children, Miles and Flora, to be exceedingly annoying and the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, couldn’t even be described as annoying due to the fact that her character was so boring and flat.

After pages upon pages of tedious, unnecessary descriptions the novella started to pick up, towards the end, but sadly ended on what I deem to be a rather expected twist.

I do apologize that this review has been so pessimistic, and as you can see on my previous posts I usually enjoy at least some aspect of a story, but Henry James appeared to have looked upon the success of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories and thought ‘Hmm, if Poe was so successful with these horrors in such a small number of pages I will be ten times more successful if I pad my own story with many more pages.’ I can imagine Poe rolling around in his grave seeing that the horror of his The Black Cat, The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Cask of Amontillado had evolved into this disappointing mess.

As you have probably noticed, from the photos I have on these posts, I buy many of my books used (either from used book stores, thrift stores, garage sales, or online at The one thing I love about getting these old, used books is finding bookmarks hidden in the pages, it is like getting that toy in the cereal when you are younger. The copy of The Turn of the Screw that I ordered came to me with a rather amusing bookmark containing the lyrics and sheet music of Amazing Grace. I thought it was somewhat fitting to have such a depressing song inside such a boring book! I also found it quite ironic that the bookmark pointed me in the direction of a religious website ( that I know would definitely not believe in the ‘ghosts’ of The Turn of the Screw.

The edition I read was ISBN: 0-393-95904-X

James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc, 1999. Print.

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