Sunday, October 9, 2011

Thoughts: The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

This book made me want to stab my eyes out with a plastic fork.

Just kidding.

Well, not really.

Le protagonist is a young woman who has just been hired as a governess for two exquisitely good-looking/good-natured children at a remote estate. Their uncle, the legal guardian, lets her do anything she wants with (to?) the children under one condition. Even if one of them gets maimed or ravaged by a pack of lions, she can never contact him. To add to the mystery, the ghosts of the children’s former governess and her boyfriend keep popping up all over the estate.

The governess is annoying as hell. The whole time I was reading the story, I just wanted to shoot her in the kneecaps. (Sorry, I just finished watching Kill Bill Vol. 2) She thought and thought and thought some more about the mysterious apparitions, until she was almost drowning in her thoughts. And, ohmygod, I got so sick of hearing how perfect the children are, how sweet and beautiful.

I guess this book was supposed to be some sort of psychological thriller, and was probably meant to be subtle. Well, believe me, this book wasn’t subtle. It was repetitive. The sentences are so long, and THERE ARE COMMAS EVERYWHERE. I know that the overflow of commas is part of Henry James’ writing style, but it’s annoying. I forgot what every sentence meant by the time I finished reading it.

If Danielle Steele’s writing style minus the romance and Stephen King had a bastard child, the result would be this book.

Rating: 2/5

P.S.: This book raised a lot of questions but barely a single one is answered by the time you turn the last page. Made me want to scream.

This is the third book I read and reviewed for the RIP Challenge VI.

13 comments:

Violet said...

Is this your first Henry James? I love his writing, but a lot of people find him a little verbose. :) I enjoy Gothic Lit and think The Turn of the Screw is brilliant. Sorry you didn't get along with it. Also glad you didn't use the plastic fork! :)

Amanda said...

I loved Turn of the Screw! And I love the ambiguous ending. It isn't meant to give you answers, it's meant to show you a piece of yourself- what kind of person are you if you think the children are ghosts? What kind of person are you if you immediately assume the children were molested? What conclusions does your brain need?

I think it's genius.

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

Oh no, I really wanted to read this one!

Mel said...

Your review is brilliant! I have to confess I loved this little novel, mostly because of the ambiguity I think, but I found myself laughing out loud (with you) when reading your post. I don't know if this is relevant, but one of my all time favourite books is The Master by Colm Toibin, it is based on part of the life of James, and gives a bit of an insight into the man.

Trish said...

Hmm - well that clears up a lot for me. I had my suspicions about this book and now I see that they are true.

Kristi said...

I hated it too! I didn't really mind the ambiguous ending, but the governess bothered me too. So repetitive! I wasn't a fan of Henry James' verbosity either. If I remember correctly, there was a sentence that lasted nearly an entire page.

Trisha said...

I have yet to read James, and honestly I've never had much of a desire to do so.

Kate said...

I have to admit I rather like this one, but there's plenty about it that bothers me too. James' writing, of course; we don't get along. I also generally dislike the framing of the story, introducing it just like around a campfire: "All right, this didn't happen to me, but to a friend of my friend and she SWEARS it's true." To be fair, I hate that sort of framing wherever it shows up (it's in The Woman in Black too), not just in this.

Must be time for a reread, though.

Great review! Thanks for your opinions!

Zibilee said...

I have heard that James is really hard to read, so I have sort of avoided this book for awhile now, but do have a copy of The Golden Bowl that I may tackle sometime. I probably would have been really annoyed by this book based on what you have said about it here. There seems to be a great degree of rambling in it. Thanks for sharing your candid and honest thoughts on it with us.

celawerdblog said...

I have not read the whole thing, but I remember reading excerpts of it from my textbook in high school. Nothing really grabbed be about what I read.

Shelley said...

This is one of those I always feel weird for not liking because everyone else seems to love it. So glad I'm not alone! I loved another one of his, Washington Square, so I'm not giving up just yet on him.

Brenna said...

Oh no I really liked this one! I think what makes it so interesting is that James never tells us if the ghosts are real or if the governess is simply going crazy. My take? This is an account of a young woman's decent into madness as a result of isolation and loneliness. The ghosts become a part of her imagination as she begins to find demonic qualities in everything around her, including the seemingly angelic children. The question of whether or not The Turn of the Screw is an actual ghost story or the story of a woman going mad is open to interpretation, as there is no concrete answer. Did the ghosts of Miss Jessel and Peter Quint haunt Bly? Did the children keep a dark secret hidden from their governess?

Too bad you didn't enjoy this one. It's one of my favorite Halloween reads.

Amanda said...

I hated the protagonist too, which definitely makes me favor the whole the governess is evil possibility as the real storyline. (You know, either there were evil ghosts or the governess was abusing the kids). I did listen to it as an audiobook, though, which I think helped.

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