I first read Turn of the Screw by Henry James a long time ago. I must have been in my early 20s and I had heard it was scary so I picked it up thinking I would be terrified while gaining pretentious snob points for if being Henry James. I don’t recall much about the story, I only remember that I thought it was okay but was overall disappointed because it didn’t even come close to making me afraid to go to sleep at night. In fact, I wasn’t even really sure what the book was about.
Thank goodness times change! This go round I read it on my Kindle and a little way in figured out how to connect my Kindle to my Twitter account so I got to have fun sending links to highlighted passages along with messages like, “the governess sees dead people!” (I have never claimed to be a witty tweeter). Whether people were interested in my progress through the story or not was no concern of mine because I was having so much fun.
Tweeting aside, I loved the story this time maybe because I wasn’t trying to score book snob points or be scared out of my wits. The story was rather creepy at times with ghosts peering in windows and lurking on dark staircases. Plus there is the fact that we never know for sure whether the governess really is seeing ghosts or if she is going insane. I love stories like that.
Then of course there are the children Flora and Miles; beautiful children with the faces of angels and the manners to match. Such children couldn’t be evil. Or could they? Miles was after all sent home from school with a letter forbidding his return but no explanation as to why. Miles doesn’t say and the governess doesn’t ask because she believes it must be some sort of mistake and she is more than happy to take care of Miles and Flora both. But the children aren’t angels. Do they see the ghosts or not? Can the governess save them from evil and somehow redeem their innocence?
Mrs. Grose the housekeeper believes everything the governess says all too easily. At times it even seems like she is egging her on but at other times like she is only humoring her. Even when it sinks in that the governess might be about to go off the deep end ghosts or no ghosts, Mrs. Grose still keeps agreeing with her. I haven’t decided if that is just how Mrs. Grose is, if it has to do with their class difference, or perhaps that they were the only ones in charge of a big huge house and she didn’t want the governess to go all Shining on her and chase her about with an axe one snowy evening. Whatever the mystery behind Mrs. Grose’s character, she certainly does nothing to calm the governess and set her mind at ease. On the contrary, it seems she nearly always drives the poor governess closer to the abyss.
The story is written as only Henry James can write. If you have a fear of James though and his long, winding, full of clauses sentences, this one, while distinctly Jamesian, is on a tight leash and I can recall no sentences or paragraphs that go on for pages.
Unless I feel compelled to read some short stories over the upcoming Halloween weekend, this is probably my last R.I.P. Challenge V read for the season. As always it has been lots of fun. Kudos to Carl. Now I’ve got to start making a list of possible reads for next year.