The Turn of the Screw, Paperback Book

The Turn of the Screw Paperback

Edited by David Bromwich

3.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


A chilling ghost story, wrought with tantalising ambiguity, Henry James's The Turn of the Screw is edited with an introduction and notes by David Bromwich in Penguin Classics.In what Henry James called a 'trap for the unwary', The Turn of the Screw tells of a nameless young governess sent to a country house to take charge of two orphans, Miles and Flora.

Unsettled by a dark foreboding of menace within the house, she soon comes to believe that something malevolent is stalking the children in her care.

But is the threat to her young charges really a malign and ghostly presence or something else entirely?

The Turn of the Screw is James's great masterpiece of haunting atmosphere and unbearable tension and has influenced subsequent ghost stories and films such as The Innocents, starring Deborah Kerr, and The Others, starring Nicole Kidman.

This Penguin Classics edition contains a chronology, further reading, notes and an introduction by David Bromwich examining the dark ambiguity of James's work and the inseparability of narrative from point-of-view.Henry James (1843-1916) son of a prominent theologian, and brother to the philosopher William James, was one of the most celebrated novelists of the fin-de-siecle.

In addition to many short stories, plays, books of criticism, biography and autobiography, and much travel writing, he wrote some twenty novels.

His novella Daisy Miller (1878) established him as a literary figure on both sides of the Atlantic, and his other novels in Penguin Classics include Washington Square (1880), The Portrait of a Lady (1881), The Awkward Age (1899), The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1904).If you enjoyed The Turn of the Screw, you might like Edgar Allen Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, also available in Penguin Classics.'A most wonderful, lurid, poisonous little tale'Oscar Wilde


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9780141441351

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Review by

The Turn of the Screw may be the first entry in the very specific sub-genre of the ambiguous ghost story, a sub-genre with includes the much better The Haunting of Hill House and The Little Stranger. Here, an unnamed governess takes on a suspicious job caring for two orphans on a remote estate. Her employer, the children's uncle, leaves specific instructions not to trouble him with any decisions, so she is basically on her own. Once the governess arrives at the house, she soon starts seeing apparitions, whom she identifies as the ghosts of the previous governess and her employer's valet, both of whom died under mysterious circumstances. She perceives that the children know of the ghosts and determines that the four of them have some sinister relationship.The governess's account is suspect for many reasons. For one, she describes her charges as beautiful, perfect, angelic creatures, praises which they clearly don't deserve; in fact, they are hardly characters in their own right, and seem merely to exist for the governess to lavish unwarranted praise upon. Clearly, she is subject to emotional excesses, as she has accepted this ludicrous position and developed a bizarre crush on her employer with absolutely no prompting. Finally, no one seems to see these "ghosts" but her, and the reader has no proof that the children are aware of them other than her say-so.Henry James would rather not write a simple, straightforward sentence if he could compose one that twists and turns and wanders off to nowhere instead -- or perhaps this is yet another example of the governess/narrator's instability. It's a short book, though, so the overwrought writing style is bearable. The ending, however, comes across as melodramatic to a 21st-century reader. Still, The Turn of the Screw is worth reading for its part in developing this unique sub-genre, which marries the haunting of houses and the haunting of minds.

Review by

It was better than I thought it'd be.