4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Henry James samplers,
This review is from: The Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
These stories are samplers in two senses. They serve as relatively accessible introductions to James's writing, but they are also samplers in the embroidery sense - they are James showing off what he could do in genre writing. "The Aspern Papers" is an amusing story of an attempted "hustle", but of course, this being James, it is still quite consciously "literary" in parts. "The Turn of the Screw" is more intriguing. Critics have argued whether it is a ghost story or a psychological portrait, and James, as ambiguous as ever, was quite capable of intending it to be both. But while not discounting either of these possibilities, I've a third suggestion that I prefer: it could be a fragment of an unfinished, powerful murder mystery novel, worthy of Wilkie Collins. I'll try not to spoil the story, but when you have read it (and you should) consider the following. There are three deaths to account for (all occurring under suspicious circumstances), a shadowy uncle whose motives for absenting himself are unclear, and a very dubious and uncorroborated explanation of her actions by the heroine. It would be a good exercise for a would-be crime writer to try to complete it by introducing a detective!