Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Turning

The Turning

3.5 2
by Francine Prose

See All Formats & Editions

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


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.

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

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.84(w) x 8.36(h) x 0.92(d)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

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. Her most recent book is Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932. She lives in New York City.

Brief Biography

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

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Turning 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
megan105 More than 1 year ago
good book overall, some of it was weird/hard to follow. good twisted ending, but could be altered
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.