Posts Tagged ‘The Turn of the Screw’

I am slowing down at the moment, only finishing one book a week – although that’s technically what I am due to do, it does feel a little light on the back of my earlier successes.  The problem is that some books really take a lot of attention.

Case in point…

Book 26 – The Turn of The Screw, by Henry James.  I read this one knowing it had elements within it that may be of interest as I develop my ‘ghost’ story (they won’t be: this is not at all what I had in mind at all).

The tale follows a governess as she embarks on a job caring for two orphans on behalf of their uncle; she is plagued by fear and doubts about sightings of two staff previously employed at the house – two staff who have died.  I think we should question her mental state, alongside that of the children she cares for but the set-up suggested she was an entirely reliable woman so that didn’t work for me.

I can’t help feeling that the underlying issues – the potentially inappropriate relationship of the children with the dead staff, their relationship with their new governess, the damage done to the children as a result of these relationships, to name but a few – are lost in the dense and unyielding style of James’s writing.  I thought I’d share a sentence so you can see what I mean… ‘It was a pity that, somehow, to settle this once for all, I had equally to re-enumerate the signs of subtlety that, in the afternoon, by the lake had made a miracle of my show of self-possession’.  There is very little directly stated in the book, and we are left to decipher what we can.

As a writer I completely appreciate that each of us has to write in the style we wish to follow; as a reader I found it very hard-going and I didn’t enjoy reading the book.

This novel is an odd one, really – a beloved classic with psychological undertones and truly hair-raising experiences, for some – and a hard-to-read product of its melodramatic time, for others.  I’m in the second group, sadly – but at least I know something about what I don’t want to do, and I’ve ticked another book off the list.

All in all, I think this was worth reading even if not my cup of tea!

Happy reading,





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