“We were alone with the quiet day, and his little heart, dispossessed, had stopped” Henry James
New Release! (In 1898) It has been a long time since I read any Henry James, and I’m no longer familiar enough with him to do anything but sarcastically refer to myself as Daisy Miller if I’m getting out of control. But I recently read an interview with Emma Thompson, who narrates The Turn of the Screw in the new audible release and it interested me enough to check it out. I don’t think I realized it, but this is a straight up ghost story, and it scared the crap out of me.
The Turn of the Screw is gothic fiction and it is a novella, so a very quick read (or listen). It is the story of a young woman who takes a job as a governess at an eerie old house in the country (as one does) where the master never appears, with a maybe-ghost that only appears to her, who may or may not be pursuing her two creepy young charges, whom James refers to as ‘beautiful’ so many times that it was disturbing in and of itself. It’s a great psychological story where you get to the end having no idea if there are really ghosts, or if the kids are part of the terror, or if she is really just crazy. Is she protecting them, or keeping them from more danger, or just losing her marbles? It’s hard to say. It actually never does say… It’s never overt or violent, just a lot of ambiguously weird and mounting tension as the ghosts get closer and closer to the children.
Overall, I enjoyed it, and found it overwrought in a fun way like a less beautiful Jane Eyre. The narration of the audiobook by Emma Thompson is lovely. Listening to this story instead of reading it added a layer of fearfulness, like being told a story around a campfire. Which is fun, if you like that sort of thing.
Grade – B