The Turning

( 1 )

Overview

A dark house.
An isolated island.
Strange dreams and even stranger visions . . .

Jack is spending the summer on a private island far from modern conveniences. No Wi-Fi, no cell service, no one else on the island but a housekeeper and the two very peculiar children in his care. The first time Jack sees the huge black mansion atop a windswept hill, he senses something cold, ...

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Overview

A dark house.
An isolated island.
Strange dreams and even stranger visions . . .

Jack is spending the summer on a private island far from modern conveniences. No Wi-Fi, no cell service, no one else on the island but a housekeeper and the two very peculiar children in his care. The first time Jack sees the huge black mansion atop a windswept hill, he senses something cold, something more sinister than even the dark house itself.

Soon, he feels terribly isolated and alone. Yet he is not alone. The house has visitors—peering in the windows, staring from across the shore. But why doesn't anyone else see them . . . and what do they want? As secrets are revealed and darker truths surface, Jack desperately struggles to maintain a grip on reality. He knows what he sees, and he isn't crazy. . . . Or is he?

From nationally acclaimed author Francine Prose comes a mind-bending story that will leave you realizing how subtle the lines that separate reality, imagination, and insanity really are.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This alluring epistolary retelling of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw traces a contemporary babysitter’s supernatural encounters. The protagonist, Jack, is hoping to earn some money for college when he agrees to care for orphan siblings on Crackstone’s Landing, a remote island without phones, Internet, or TV. Upon settling into the “Dark House” to care for Miles and Flora (who are like “iniature, polite grown-ups”), Jack begins to have misgivings about the job. Still, things don’t begin to go awry until Jack is spooked by two ethereal figures, perhaps the ghosts of the children’s former governess and her beau. Jack’s growing anxiety, physical decline, and obsession with the female ghost are heavily foreshadowed and clearly expressed through his letters to his girlfriend (which make up the bulk of the narrative), yet it is left for readers to determine how much of what Jack undergoes is real. Remaining true to the ambiguous nature of the original, Prose (Touch) masterfully builds suspense. Like Adele Griffin’s Tighter (2011), this spin on the classic tale is an enticing blend of gothic elements and psychological complexities. Ages 13–up. Agent: Denise Shannon, Denise Shannon Literary Agency. (Oct.)
VOYA - Tanya Paglia
This eerie tale, told almost entirely through letters, follows Jack, a sixteen-year-old boy who has taken on a summer job to save money so he can go to the same college as his girlfriend, Sophie. This job requires that Jack travel to a secluded island to babysit two orphaned children. During an eventful boat ride to the island, where even the seagulls seemingly warn him to stay away, Jack hears about a murder tied to Crackstone Landings, exactly where he is headed. Once Jack arrives at the "dark house," a massive monstrosity with winding corridors and hidden rooms, he meets the children, Miles and Flora. Dressed in old-fashioned clothes, like "miniature grownups," he writes Sophie, they are polite as can be, which puzzles him. When Linda, the cook, reveals that the last governess who worked there was murdered along with the gardener, things take a turn for the worse. Jack begins to see things, namely, the ghosts of the victims, who Jack believes have a sinister story to tell involving the children. Prose's novel, written in first-person, allows the reader to feel the protagonist's desperation intensely. It is a finely tuned ghost story that incorporates a plot line similar to Henry James's The Turn Of The Screw. Prose's use of symbolism, the written word, and awareness—or lack thereof—of the spiritual world, is neatly reinvented in The Turning. The ending is abrupt and thought provoking, leaving room for a lively discussion. Reviewer: Tanya Paglia
Kirkus Reviews
Henry James' The Turn of the Screw is the inspiration for this epistolary novel by Francine Prose. High school senior Jack has been hired as a professional playmate for two orphaned children who live on their wealthy family's remote island for the summer. But the isolated place has no Internet or phone service, so Jack must write old-fashioned letters to communicate. Very quickly the strangely polite siblings and their vast spooky mansion begin freaking Jack out, and his letters to his girlfriend grow more and more paranoid. He writes about seeing the ghosts of a former teacher and the previous groundskeeper, who both died under mysterious circumstances, and he becomes obsessed with their stories. Are they real? Or is Jack losing his mind? If readers can suspend disbelief that a teenage boy would recount lengthy, word-for-word conversations in letters, then they might be susceptible to the novel's moderately creepy tone. But the bad things are telegraphed so early and often and Jack's voice is so nondescript, that the fear never really takes root. Whether or not the ghosts are real is left up to readers, but due to the lackluster prose and obvious foreshadowing, the question is ultimately not that frightening. Teens looking for a more elegantly executed retelling should turn to Tighter by Adele Griffin (2011). Not enough scare there. (Fiction. 12 & up)
Children's Literature - Amy S. Hansen
In this retelling of Henry James' Turning of the Screw, author Prose hits the creepy button just right. High school-aged Jack accepts a job for the summer. He is to be a companion for two kids on a remote island. It is supposed to be a great summer job and the pay will get him to the college of his choice. The problem is that no one told him about the hauntings. At first Jack doesn't believe. His letters to his girlfriend reflect his disdain of the idea, but as he is convinced the people around him start to be convinced that Jack is crazy. While the innuendo in this is not the same as James' original, they are both leave one with goosebumps and feeling shaken. What is real? What does it mean to be insane? These are questions for the reader to decide. Prose lets her characters speak for themselves. While I think the original Henry James story was stronger, older readers who enjoy horror stories will like this one.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—An updated version of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. Jack is separated from his girlfriend by her disapproving father, who arranges a summer job for the boy babysitting two orphaned children, Miles and Flora, on an isolated island. The story is narrated by Jack in a series of letters to Sophie that relate the increasingly odd happenings: people appear that no one else can see, Jack hears vague rumors of a strange death on the island last year, and the two children appear to be hiding secrets of their own. From the housekeeper, Jack learns of the previous nanny, Lucy, and her lover, Norris-now deceased-whose ghosts may be haunting the area. Prose includes all the elements of the Gothic ghost story as she masterfully establishes a brooding, dark tone: a cavernous mansion, a mysteriously locked room, eerily well-behaved children. At times, the epistolary format stretches credulity (such as Jack still writing after he breaks up with Sophie). However, letters that end on cliff-hangers heighten the suspense and keep the narrative moving at a breakneck pace. Though the ambiguous conclusion is spooky, readers will likely find the twist at the end of Adele Griffin's Tighter (Knopf, 2011), based on the same source material, far more satisfying. As with James's original story, Prose effectively establishes the protagonist as an unreliable narrator, though the voice of Griffin's wayward teenager is more convincing. Still, this is a gripping page-turner that even reluctant readers will have trouble putting down.—Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061999666
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/25/2012
  • Pages: 246
  • Sales rank: 949,156
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.36 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Francine Prose

Francine Prose is the author of twenty works of fiction. Her novel A Changed Man won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Blue Angel was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent works of nonfiction include the highly acclaimed Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and the New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer. The recipient of numerous grants and honors, including a Guggenheim and a Fulbright, a Director's Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, Prose is a former president of PEN American Center, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She lives in New York City.

Biography

When it comes to an author as eclectic as Francine Prose, it's difficult to find the unifying thread in her work. But, if one were to examine her entire oeuvre—from novels and short stories to essays and criticism—a love of reading would seem to be the animating force. That may not seem extraordinary, especially for a writer, but Prose is uncommonly passionate about the link between reading and writing. "I've always read," she confessed in a 1998 interview with Atlantic Unbound. "I started when I was four years old and just didn't stop…The only reason I wanted to be a writer was because I was such an avid reader." (In 2006, she produced an entire book on the subject—a nuts-and-bolts primer entitled Reading Like a Writer, in which she uses excerpts from classic and contemporary literature to illustrate her personal notions of literary excellence.)

If Prose is specific about the kind of writing she, herself, likes to read, she's equally voluble about what puts her off. She is particularly vexed by "obvious, tired clichés; lazy, ungrammatical writing; implausible plot turns." Unsurprisingly, all of these are notably absent in her own work. Even when she explores tried-and-true literary conventions—such as the illicit romantic relationship at the heart of her best known novel, Blue Angel—she livens them with wit and irony. She even borrowed her title from the famous Josef von Sternberg film dealing with a similar subject.

As biting and clever as she is, Prose cringes whenever her work is referred to as satire. She explained to Barnes & Noble.com, "Satirical to me means one-dimensional characters…whereas, I think of myself as a novelist who happens to be funny—who's writing characters that are as rounded and artfully developed as the writers of tragic novels."

Prose's assessment of her own work is pretty accurate. Although her subject matter is often ripe for satire (religious fanaticism in Household Saints, tabloid journalism in Bigfoot Dreams, upper-class pretensions in Primitive People), etc.), she takes care to invest her characters with humanity and approaches them with respect. "I really do love my characters," she says, "but I feel that I want to take a very hard look at them. I don't find them guilty of anything I'm not guilty of myself."

Best known for her fiction, Prose has also written literary criticism for The New York Times, art criticism for The Wall Street Journal, and children's books based on Jewish folklore, all of it infused with her alchemic blend of humor, insight,and intelligence.

Good To Know

Prose rarely wastes an idea. In Blue Angel, the novel that the character Angela is writing is actually a discarded novel that Prose started before stopping because, in her own words, "it seemed so juvenile to me."

While she once had no problem slamming a book in one of her literary critiques, these days Prose has resolved to only review books that she actually likes. The ones that don't adhere to her high standards are simply returned to the senders.

Prose's novel Household Saints was adapted into an excellent film starring Tracey Ullman, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Lili Taylor in 1993.

Another novel, The Glorious Ones, was adapted into a musical.

In 2002, Prose published The Lives of the Muses, an intriguing hybrid of biography, philosophy, and gender studies that examines nine women who inspired famous artists and thinkers—from John Lennon's wife Yoko Ono to Alice Liddell, the child who enchanted Lewis Carroll.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 1, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Radcliffe College, 1968

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2012

    I was very excited to get this book for Christmas and I finished

    I was very excited to get this book for Christmas and I finished in three days. However as I was nearing the end I noticed there wasn't enough pages to complete the storyline. I ended the book thinking there would be a continuatoun but I was sadly mistaken. I am left wondering what was real and what wasn't. Not in the good suspenseful way, but in the very annoyed waste of time way. Overall decent story but could use some modifications.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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