Last Halloween post. I am glad about that. I need more uplifting books right now. Halloween is just not my holiday. Except for the candy. I do like the candy. So for today's book, the ultra-creepy ultimate ghost story . . .
The Turn of the Screw
I always liked the James brothers. William, the psychologist who wrote like a novelist, and Henry, the novelist who used such insightful psychology so masterfully in his stories. Perhaps none so much as The Turn of the Screw.
Written at the turn of the century (not this last one, the one before), it's a gothic tale of a governess hired to watch a girl of 6 and her 10-year-old brother, when he's not away at school. She is hired by their uncle, who lives in the city and wants to have no contact with her or the children, who live in his country house. She moves out there shortly, despite these odd circumstances and the fact that the last governess died under mysterious circumstances.
As the days go by at the country house, she is delighted by her young charges and makes a good friend in the housekeeper. Things are lovely (as long as she didn't ask too many questions). And then the first ghost appears. Later, the second ghost appears, and she worries that the ghosts are after the children.
The ending is vague, so you're left uncertain at the end of the story what exactly happened at that house. Were they really haunted by ghosts? Were the children in genuine danger? Or did the governess invent it all in her troubled mind? It's a quick read, just a novella, although the language is a bit difficult at times. But if you're looking for a creepy story, this one hits all the right notes. Give it a try.
(Note with spoiler, skip if you want to: I will admit I was a little offended by the fact that the governess "succumbed" to her employer while still in town. She says she knows that it was a one-night stand, in era-appropriate language of course, but still I wonder: Does this affair happen as a way to justify her madness later? Did her inability to keep her man cause her to lose her mind? Or did a man of Henry James' time think that could be a possible explanation for her behavior? If so, shame on you, sir! Shame on you! Women are not so susceptible to a man's "charms., " nor so damaged when they are removed.)