The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898)


So… I had to read a gothic or horror classic for a reading challenge this year, and I had this self-imposed rule that, for reading challenges at least, I only wanted to read things I hadn’t read before. And I went on a gothic literature binge six years ago or so, so I’d read a lot of the obvious choices. Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, Dorian Grey, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights… Heck, I even read Northanger Abbey.

Obviously there is more gothic literature in the world to read, but I’d read all the ones I’d been excited about already. So imagine my relief when an AO forum friend suggested we read the gothic novella The Turn of the Screw together in October. Oh good, that makes the choice easy. Phew.

So anyway, this is not a story I would have read without reading buddies and without that reading challenge. I don’t think I’d even heard of it before.

The gist of this story is… a governess is hired to take care of two… um, perfect? children. I say “um, perfect?” and not just “perfect” because those kids were just… too perfect, if you know what I mean. But at the first the governess is just smitten with the little buggers.

So smitten, in fact, that she doesn’t inquire about why little Miles was expelled from boarding school, because it could only be bullying or bureaucratic nonsense. Such a perfect little boy couldn’t have possibly have done anything wrong.

… Okay, I so I just plain didn’t like the governess. I thought she was kind of a twit. The kind of twit who prides herself on her intellect.

And then are ghosts. And the lord of the estate refuses to be bothered about the children and literally asks the governess to NEVER bother him about them. And the creepy children start manipulating the governess, and there’s this unspoken tension because the kids know the governess knows, and the governess knows the kids know she knows…

I’m not sure I cared for it, especially with James’ twisty, windy writing style. (If you’ve read James, you know precisely what it is I’m talking about.) It’s really the first gothic story I didn’t really like, actually.

But there you go.

I read a thing.



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