I’d heard so much about this book from other readers that when I found a weather – beaten copy of it on one of our shelves at home I actually felt lucky. Little did I know that I would soon regret it. Not because it wasn’t well written or because I didn’t find it intriguing enough. Oh no, I thought it was extremely well written and far too intriguing to appreciate fully at night. Let me explain.
The Turn of the Screw, as you probably know already, is one of the most well known ghost stories of all time in spite of all the criticism it’s got and the controversial discussions it’s brought up. Why? It’s worth reading to find out. Though personally, I think it’s because it achieves the everyday eeriness that very few ghost stories manage to. This ghost story is frighteningly real and believable, and I think that’s what sets it apart.
The Turn of the Screw holds a lot of mystery, and I realized that the mystery is really what keeps the reader hooked. Plus it adds to the fun and/or scare (!) So I’m not going to say very much about the story for fear that I might spoil it for those of you who haven’t read it yet.
The beginning of the book may be a little confusing: The story opens with a small gathering of people who are discussing an experience of the supernatural. It is being narrated by one of the persons present at the gathering. But even he is relating to us only what he has heard himself from another gentleman. The story isn’t his either, but a personal account of what he’s been told in a letter written by a dear friend, a governess. From this point on the story is told from the view point of the governess.
Her pupils are two unbelievably charming children, and she is extremely happy and content with her new work. Everything is going beautifully when all of a sudden the governess begins seeing a strange man around the premises. She realizes that things at this house may not be as perfect as they had appeared in the beginning and that something is deeply wrong. A little by little she begins to unravel the dark mystery of this house, a secret that, as we soon learn, is not hers alone.
Henry James believed that if he were able to make his readers think evil, it was needless to get bogged down in describing the finer details of a story. If the readers had the appropriate feeling, they would imagine the details up themselves. It appears that Henry James, though an 18th century writer, had a keen insight into the human mind. Because, what could possibly scare a person more than his own imagination? We know what scares us best. And the author brings us to do exactly that in this novella.
In spite of the ambiguity and the looming mystery throughout the book, The Turn of the Screw is a bewitching read. If I enjoyed being afraid I might have said that this was my favourite ghost story. Everyone should read this book at least once, even if it’s only to see how cleverly the author holds his reader’s attention while giving away so little. But do NOT at any cost read this book before bed. Unless, of course, you’d like to see how brave you are.