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The Turn of the Screw (Penguin Popular Classics) [Mass Market Paperback]

Henry James
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)

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Book Description

26 July 2007 Penguin Popular Classics
The narrator is a young governess, sent off to a country house to take charge of two orphaned children. She finds a pleasant house and a comfortable housekeeper, while the children are beautiful and charming. But she soon begins to feel the presence of intense evil.

Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (26 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140620613
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140620610
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 0.4 x 18.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 262,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Much imitated ... but no one comes near the finesse of the master (The Times)

Timelessly unsettling (Guardian) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Henry James was born in 1843 in Washington Place, New York, of Scottish and Irish ancestry. His father was a prominent theologian and philosopher and his elder brother, William, is also famous as a philosopher. He attended schools in New York and later in London, Paris and Geneva, entering the Law School at Harvard in 1862. In 1865 he began to contribute reviews and short stories to American journals. In 1875, after two prior visits to Europe, he settled for a year in Paris, where he met Flaubert, Turgenev and other literary figures. However, the next year he moved to London, where he became so popular in society that in the winter of 1878–9 he confessed to accepting 107 invitations. In 1898 he left London and went to live at Lamb House, Rye, Sussex. Henry James became a naturalized citizen in 1915, was awarded the Order of Merit and died in 1916.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still haunting after all these years. 23 Jan 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
One of the most seductive of all ghost stories, Turn of the Screw is not a tale for people inured to Halloween I and II or Tales from the Crypt. It is a sophisticated and subtle literary exercise in which the author creates a dense, suggestive, and highly ambiguous story, its suspense and horror generated primarily by what the author does NOT say and does not describe. Compelled to fill in the blanks from his/her own store of personal fears, the reader ultimately conjures up a more horrifying set of images and circumstances than anything an author could impose from without.
Written in 1898, this is superficially the tale of a governess who accepts the job of teaching two beautiful, young children whose uncle-guardian wants nothing to do with them. On a symbolic level, however, it is a study of the mores and prejudices of the times and, ultimately, of the nature of Evil. The governess fears that ghosts of the former governess Miss Jessel and her lover, valet Peter Quint, have corrupted the souls of little Flora and Miles and have won them to the side of Evil. The children deny any knowledge of ghosts, and, in fact, only the governess actually sees them. Were it not for the fact that the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, can identify them from the governess's descriptions, one might be tempted to think that the governess is hallucinating.
Though the governess is certainly neurotic and repressed, this novel was published ten years before Freud, suggesting that the story should be taken at face value, as a suspenseful but enigmatic Victorian version of a Faustian struggle for the souls of these children. The ending, which comes as a shock to the reader, is a sign that such struggles should never be underestimated. As is always the case with James, the formal syntax, complex sentence structure, and elaborately constructed narrative are a pleasure to read for anyone who loves language, formality, and intricate psychological labyrinths. Mary whipple
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrifying ghost story 27 Jun 2008
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Unlike some of the other reviewers here I still think this is the creepiest book I've ever read, and all the more terrifying for the fact that James never articulates what's going on - he simply leaves your imagination to float free and conjure up all your worse nightmares. Yes, he's never an easy read (though this is far more accessible than Wings of the Dove, The Golden Bowl etc) but I think his very stately, mannered sentences and diction actually add to the horror of the story. Don't read this if you're expecting Stephen King or The Exorcist - James expects his readers to make the effort to read properly. Someone called this (possibly James himself?)'the most poisonous little tale I could imagine' and I think that's a perfect description - when I re-read it, it was on the tube with bright lights and lots of people around as I couldn't face reading it at home alone!
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An all-time great spooky story 31 Dec 2005
Format:Mass Market Paperback
‘TTOTS’ is a classic chilling tale from Henry James. It would not be fair to describe it as horror, because there is no gore, or as a ghost story, because it is far subtler than that. The story concerns a nanny looking after the children of a rich widower with whom she has fallen in love. Her desire to protect the children is tested when she begins to see two nefarious (and long-dead) former employees of the house, apparently threatening her charges. As the nanny’s sanity is called into question, we begin to wonder who represents the real danger in the house.
‘TTOTS’ is an excellent example of ambiguous writing. Even at the shocking conclusion, it is not clear if we have just read a ghost story or an example of psychological fiction. It is difficult to say too much without giving too much away about the story, but every event, or encounter with the ghostly figures, has two interpretations. It is very cleverly written, and all the more spooky because of it.
Having said all that, I am not a fan of James’ writing style. The only other book of his that I have read (‘The Ambassadors’) has tortuously constructed sentences that are painful to read. This is also true of ‘TTOTS’. Fortunately, the story of the title is easily gripping enough for this not to be a problem, but the rest of this collection is instantly forgettable because of it. Nevertheless, it is well-worth a read as one of the greatest spooky stories ever told.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Always A Classic 10 April 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If you mention Henry James people always seem to shy away, thinking that his books are hard to read or understand. Sometimes very long winded perhaps, but never the former. Even if you never read anything else by Henry James ever, there is still plenty of reason to read this. I don't know myself how many times I have read this novella over the years, indeed it is already the second time I have re-read it this year.

Who doesn't like a great ghost story? Well this is one of those. A governess has to take charge of two children but she starts seeing apparitions, which eventually result in tragedy. At the same time she goes about learning who these apparitions are. Sounds interesting? It is, and a great piece of escapism. You can read this tale just like that, but you also begin to notice that things may not be as they seem, there is definitely things going on just under the surface. This is written in such an ambigious way that you are the only person who can decide whether this is a simple ghost tale, or a tale of madness and hysteria; and ultimately that is where the greatness of this lies.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good
I think this book is very useful and easy to use. It was delivered very promptly in good condition. It will become a staple.
Published 2 days ago by Kate
5.0 out of 5 stars Very exciting story
Very interesting story full of suspense. Gives the reader much more insight into the story than the film. I've nearly finished it and can't wait
Published 1 month ago by Holly
2.0 out of 5 stars Another book group choice that was almost universally disliked
"Jamesian " to me now sums up turgid prose. The story was based on an idea mentioned to Henry James.He took about 120 pages to tell it in his style. Read more
Published 2 months ago by sy
5.0 out of 5 stars Turn of the Screw
I caught the last 20 minutes or so of a play on TV, had no idea what it was about and it wasn't being repeated!!! I found out what it was called and who wrote it so I bought it. Read more
Published 4 months ago by D. J. Wilden
4.0 out of 5 stars Scary!
Normally I never read anything remotely scary. But I did enjoy the turns & twists in this narrative. & would recommend it.
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I thought this was supposed to be a horror story. The only thing that horrified me was the strange way in which it is written. Read more
Published 5 months ago by E. A. Banks
3.0 out of 5 stars Scarey ?
I was looking forward to this as a scary read after hearing a radio program that described it as one of the most terrifying stories. Read more
Published 5 months ago by oldfred
2.0 out of 5 stars It's a wonder that there's any bush left
The 1961 film "The Innocents" which was an adaptation of this novella is an excellent film in its own right, but in at least one important respect is misleading to anyone trying to... Read more
Published 7 months ago by A. C. Dickens
4.0 out of 5 stars A classic and haunting adventure
I knew little about this story until a friend of mine introduced me to it. Knowing I was a fan of ghost/haunting horrors she was sure this would be up my street. She was right. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Bookmadgirl
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Tale
A very good book and as always with Norton editions the book contains extra infomation on the book about the times it was released and the author. Very interesting book.
Published 9 months ago by Kerry Winstanley
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