Book #101: The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

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 actually had been wanting to read this book for a while now. When the criteria came up for October’s Book Battle had a Public Domain book, I knew I had to go for it. Especially with a horror of some kind. Since, The Turn of the Screw was not only short, but also in audio in my library, I went for that one. Besides, like I said, I had been wanting to read this book for a while.

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what the horror really was. Yes, there are spirits and the spirits are alarming (eerie, creepy, and just don’t feel right), however, I didn’t quite understand the spirits’ motives. Not that a spirit needs a motive per se, but the story left open a plethora of possibilities that made me wonder just what the spirits were all about.

At first, I was thinking possession. Though that does seem to be the case in some parts (not going to go deeper than that), possession wasn’t a common horror choice in the era the story was written. Then, I was thinking the spirits were wanting to continue their inappropriate relationship with the children. Which, does seem to be the case as well, but my sick and twisted mind kept wondering what exactly these two people did to these children that was inappropriate (aside from pushing them away from societal norms).

I finally decided that I am left with how the book ends. In a resolution that there will never be a correct answer. We never really find out the deeper meaning of the spirits. Just like in life, we don’t always find the deeper meaning in the normal going ons. And though there is a resolution, it is a sad one and leaves the reader empty. Just as it leaves the female unnamed narrator.

Did I like the book? Yes, I think I did. Did I find it fulfilling? In its own way, yes. However, it isn’t what you find in modern ghost stories where the main character finds the crux of the spirit’s motives and finds a way to combat them. No, this is a story that feels almost realistic in its lack of complete resolution.

I find that to be the scariest part in this book.

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