Quick Review (read on for full review)
A spooky gothic ghost story with a great atmosphere and much tension, but the writing style takes quite a bit of getting used to. The ambiguity of the narrative ensures the story stays with you long after you’ve finished reading. 4 / 5
Summary (from Goodreads)
A very young woman’s first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate…An estate haunted by a beckoning evil.
Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls…
But worse-much worse- the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil.
For they want the walking dead as badly as the dead want them.
I couldn’t chose between the two:
The apparition had reached the landing half-way up and was therefore on the spot nearest the window, where, at sight of me, it stopped short and fixed me exactly as it had fixed me from the tower and from the garden.
Dishonoured and tragic, she was all before me; but even as I fixed and, for memory, secured it, the awful image passed away. Dark as midnight in her black dress, her haggard beauty and her unutterable woe, she had looked at me long enough to appear to say that her right to sit at my table was as good as mine to sit at hers.
My review of The Turn of The Screw is a mixed one…
I read this as 2018’s Halloween Read, because I remembered a TV adaptation I saw as a teenager that nicely spooked me out. I have been planning to read this for a number of years, but my copy had become lost amongst the numerous books on my shelves. I stumbled across it whilst searching for a different book in the summer and rather sensibly set it aside…
I both enjoyed The Turn of The Screw and found it frustrating to read. My thoughts on it run somewhat like the lines of a nursery rhyme: when it was good, it was very, very good but when it was hard to read, it was horrid.
Where the spooky events occurred, they were indeed perfect. The tension during these passages is palpable and the atmosphere conjured, exquisitely gothic. My heart rate increased as I read these pages and I could feel myself tense up, as if I, along with the governess, was witness to the occurrences. If a writer wants to learn how to write an atmospheric, tense, spooky ghost story, I recommend this book to them for these scenes alone.
As for the style of writing, it takes quite a bit of getting used to and isn’t at all that easy to read. The sentence construction is unusual, and sentences are heavy and overly long. There is also quite a bit of interrupted dialogue. This does, unfortunately, detract from the enjoyment of reading the story and slows the pace considerably.
Another issue I had with the story was the very abrupt ending. I felt that it needed something else after the last chapter to bring the story to a proper conclusion. As it was, I was left feeling adrift after the final scene and dissatisfied.
But, the triumph of the story is certainly in its ambiguity. The psychological undertones manipulate what is and isn’t real until you can’t help but ask, what is really going on? Does the governess really see what she thinks she sees, or is she mad? Are there ghosts? Are the children creepy or innocent? In my opinion, there is nothing in the story that suggests these children are the angels the governess claims them to be…but, as for the rest I still can’t decide.
It’s so hard to rate this. I read it at Halloween for it’s spookiness and in this respect, it delivered, and yet, reading it was hard-going and almost chore-like. 4 stars sounds high after this review, but 3.5 doesn’t sound high enough, methinks…