The Turn of the Screw

By Henry James,

Book cover of The Turn of the Screw

Book description

'A most wonderful, lurid, poisonous little tale' Oscar Wilde

The Turn of the Screw, James's great masterpiece of haunting atmosphere and unbearable tension, tells of a young governess sent to a country house to take charge of two orphans, Miles and Flora. Unsettled by a dark foreboding of menace within…

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Why read it?

5 authors picked The Turn of the Screw as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

James’s novella is the closest thing I know to a literary version of the “Rabbit or Duck?” illusion— either a ghost story or a case study in psychopathology, depending on your perspective.

Miles and Flora, 10 and 8, are Victorian orphans left in the charge of an uncaring uncle. Their governess is far more attentive, but her own cloistered religious upbringing hasn’t prepared her for a world of anything other than Purity versus Corruption.

When she learns that the previous governess at Bly House was seduced by the uncle’s valet, she’s driven at any cost to purge the children of…

From Thomas' list on siblings in trying circumstances.

I am fond of gothic literature, so I have no idea why I only read this about five years ago, it's an absolute cracker of a ghost story! Told as a story around a fireplace, the narrator relates a story about a governess who goes to work at Bly Manor, a beautiful mansion in Essex (my home county!), taking care of two small children. Not long after her arrival she sees the ghosts of two people and soon realizes the children can see and possibly communicate with them too. Again a story that relies on fear and the build up…

From Anne-Marie's list on scaring the bejesus out of you.

This classic ghost story follows a young governess who takes up a position at a mysterious country house. She is soon plagued by the appearance of two figures she believes to be ghosts, and slowly, as past events are revealed, she understands that the threat to her and the children in her care is real. I loved the sense of growing threat and panic that is weaved into everyday events, even as our narrator becomes increasingly unreliable. I think this uncertainty adds to the fear factor – if we can’t trust our own perceptions, what can we trust? What might…

From Katherine's list on historical ghost stories.

When I first read this famous tale, I was about seventeen and still lived with my parents when I wasn’t at boarding school or hitch-hiking around Europe. I began reading in bed late at night and couldn’t put it down even when I wanted to do so. The story begins at a Christmas gathering around a fire but moves to a large house in the country where a young governess is in charge of two strange children. I have always found children uncanny; they seem to exist at the point where innocence and evil meet. Henry James is a master…

Perhaps my favorite of the bunch, this Gothic horror tale sees a governess tormented by the children in her care, but are the children themselves evil or operating under the influence of something much darker? You’re likely very familiar with this wonderfully chilling tale, but it’s one that rewards rereading for its claustrophobic mood and skin-crawling reveals. And while it’s been adapted for the screen a number of times (most recently The Turning, and Netflix’s The Haunting of Bly Manor), the best of them is still The Innocents (1961), which all these years later is still beautifully done…

From Kealan's list on making you reconsider having kids.

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