The Turn of the Screw and Other Stories, Paperback Book

The Turn of the Screw and Other Stories Paperback

Edited by T. J. Lustig

Part of the Oxford World's Classics series

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


A young, inexperienced governess is charged with the care of Miles and Flora, two small children abandoned by their uncle at his grand country house.

She sees the figure of an unknown man on the tower and his face at the window.

It is Peter Quint, the master's dissolute valet, and he has come for little Miles.

But Peter Quint is dead. Like the other tales collected here - 'Sir Edmund Orme', 'Owen Wingrave', and 'The Friends of the Friends' - 'The Turn of the Screw' is to all immediate appearances a ghost story.

But are the appearances what they seem? Is what appears to the governess a ghost or a hallucination?

Who else sees what she sees? The reader may wonder whether the children are victims of corruption from beyond the grave, or victims of the governess's 'infernal imagination', which torments but also entrals her? 'The Turn of the Screw' is probably the most famous, certainly the most eerily equivocal, of all ghostly tales.

Is it a subtle, self-conscious exploration of the haunted house of Victorian culture, filled with echoes of sexual and social unease? Or is it simply, 'the most hopelessly evil story that we have ever read'?The texts are those of the New York Edition, with a new Introduction and Notes.

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The Turn of the Screw was the last story of the four, but I’ll review it up front as the titled work. It’s a novella length story and by far the best in this collection in terms of atmosphere, quality of prose, and level of discomfiture provoked in the reader (in this reader, at least). The children worried me rather a lot; Flora and Miles, so very innocent and cherished for that innocence by their new and devoted governess, who fears for that quality when she realises the former valet to their uncle and their former governess are haunting them. The undercurrent of hysteria, the reticent narration, interspersed with fraught moments of confrontation; make this one of the defining gothic mysteries. The progress in story was a little densely hidden at times, but by no means inaccessible; James’ wordiness is an asset to this tale, if anything.Sir Edmund Orme is interesting if not absolutely creepy, and with characters that one doesn’t mind joining for a ghost hunt. The subtle, almost deferential, figure of Sir Edmund, lingering in the background of the young lady’s life, to the deep consternation of her mother, is one of the more convincing shades in literature, though sadder than horrifying. While I followed the story with little problem, Owen Wingrave, the second story in the collection, is the one that James’ prose does the least credit. Maybe I was overtired, but I had to reread many paragraphs several times before feeling I had caught the gist and I’m not sure that the end of the story warranted that much effort. The Friends of Friends was different enough from the rest of the content to intrigue and surprise me; two ‘soulmates’ fall in love secretly, without the benefit of ever having met or communicated, joined by a shared supernatural trait. There’s nothing sinister about this story, but there is an air of near-danger that is quite compelling.

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