The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

A horror novella that I abandoned

My GoodReads’ Star Rating: 1 star out of 5, which means I did not liked it!

Note: My one star rating has nothing to do with the quality of the writing nor does it represent anything other than my personal reaction to a story, which has been read and enjoyed by millions for decades.

Artuccino’s bookish observation

If you like scary stories, then this book is for you; for me, absolutely not. Why oh why would I give this very well written famous story one star? My explanation is simple: the story made me anxious. After getting about 30% of the way through, I started to doubt the narrator’s view of what was going on. Then I did something I have never done, I read the last chapter. Overall, I didn’t want to abandon this book because it’s by one of the “greats”, Henry James. I was hopeful it would become a choice for my List of Betterment but it didn’t quite get there; it did not “speak to me”.. Apologies to Mr James, however we live in an age of anxiety and I work very hard to remove every last crumb of unnecessary anxiety from my life, so I must abandon the book.

A little about my List of Betterment (books that speak to me)

My goal for my List of Betterment is to create a list of fifty books, and write about them. The books on the list are books “that speak to me” and deepen my understanding of the world around me and my understanding of my inner self, that is, what quality reading is for me. My List of Betterment has been inspired by Andy Miller’s intriguing book, The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books (and Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life. I believe it is possible, by reading stories about the lives and worlds of others, the reader can become more accepting of the differences between people; an understanding of diverse personalities and cultures can be gained, and the reader will very likely experience a rewarding and pleasurable journey. Stories within books introduce the reader to an enormous number of characters, all sorts of predicaments, leading to fascinating consequences and outcomes. The reader of a book will find out about people, places and circumstances that they could never experience in several lifetimes.

Books “that speak to me” (quality reading from my perspective) contain two or more of the following elements:

  • I love the book;
  • It has elements of enlightenment;
  • I have the desire to share it with others;
  • It had an impact on my emotions, and is memorable;
  • Reading it twice has value;
  • I have the desire to keep the book on my shelf; it is collectable;
  • It is a “classic” and reading it felt like an achievement.
A little about the book

A governess is hired to look after the nephew and niece of a man who has inherited the responsibility for the children after the death of their parents. He is very explicit in his instructions to the governess that he is not to be bothered with excessive communications. The governess is young and pretty and wants to impress her new employer by doing exactly what he wishes. She wants to be seen as competent, and in a sense this need to please proves to be a vulnerability that, as she tries to shield and protect, she actually puts everyone at more risk.

A little about the author

Henry James, OM, son of theologian Henry James Sr., brother of the philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James, was an American-born author, one of the founders and leaders of a school of realism in fiction. He spent much of his life in England and became a British subject shortly before his death. He is primarily known for a series of major novels in which he portrayed the encounter of America with Europe. His plots centred on personal relationships, the proper exercise of power in such relationships, and other moral questions. His method of writing from the point of view of a character within a tale allowed him to explore the phenomena of consciousness and perception, and his style in later works has been compared to impressionist painting. ((Author details adapted from GoodReads)) ((Find out more about Henry James at Wikipedia)) ((Read Colm Tóibín’s review (2006) of Turn of the Screw at The Guardian))

Genre – Fiction

Horror, Ghost Story, Gothic Fiction

First Published

1898