The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw

by Henry James


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The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

James's chilling ghost story of innocence and evil

One summer a young governess is sent to take charge of Miles and Flora, two beautiful, charming orphans living in a country house. But silence covers their past. Then the servants reappear who, before they died, had looked after the children. As winter closes in, the young governess struggles to keep her charges from the unnatural influences which they seem strangely to desire.

Terror makes this a ghost story, while uncertainty makes it horrifying. Are the apparitions the governess' invention? And if so, does the evil lie not in the children, but in love–sick young women– and in adult society itself?

The most comprehensive paperback edition available, with introduction, notes and chronology of James Life and times

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780460872997
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
Publication date: 09/28/1993
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 1,255,939
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.75(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

American author Henry James (1843–1916) spent most of his career in Europe and ultimately adopted British citizenship. A prolific writer of criticism, biography, and travel-related books and articles, James is known above all for his highly influential novels, which frequently explore the clash of Old and New World cultures.

Date of Birth:

April 15, 1843

Date of Death:

February 28, 1916

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Place of Death:

London, England


Attended school in France and Switzerland; Harvard Law School, 1862-63

Read an Excerpt

The Turn of the Screw

By James, Henry

Tor Books

Copyright © 1993 James, Henry
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780812533415

I remember the whole beginning as a succession of flights and drops, a little see-saw of the right throbs and the wrong. After rising, in town, to meet his appeal I had at all events a couple of very bad days---found all my doubts bristle again, felt indeed sure I had made a mistake. In this state of mind I spent the long hours of bumping swinging coach that carried me to the stopping-place at which I was to be met by a vehicle from the house. This convenience, I was told, had been ordered, and I found, toward the close of the June afternoon, a commodious fly in waiting for me. Driving at that hour, on a lovely day, through a country the summer sweetness of which served as a friendly welcome, my fortitude revived and, as we turned into the avenue, took a flight that was probably but a proof of the point to which it had sunk. I suppose I had expected, or had dreaded, something so dreary that what greeted me was a good surprise. I remember as a thoroughly pleasant impression the broad clear front, its open windows and fresh curtains and the pair of maids looking out; I remember the lawn and the bright flowers and the crunch of my wheels on the gravel and the clustered tree-tops over which the rooks circled and cawed in the golden sky. The scene had a greatness that made it a different affair from my own scant home, and there immediately appeared at the door, with alittle girl in her hand, a civil person who dropped me as decent a curtsey as if I had been the mistress or a distinguished visitor. I had received in Harley Street a narrower notion of the place, and that, as I recalled it, made me think the proprietor still more of a gentleman, suggested that what I was to enjoy might be a matter beyond his promise.
I had no drop again till the next day, for I was carried triumphantly through the following hours by my introduction to the younger of my pupils. The little girl who accompanied Mrs. Grose affected me on the spot as a creature too charming not to make it a great fortune to have to do with her. She was the most beautiful child I had ever seen, and I afterwards wondered why my employer hadn't made more of a point to me of this. I slept little that night-I was too much excited; and this astonished me too, I recollect, remained with me, adding to my sense of the liberality with which I was treated. The large impressive room, one of the best in the house, the great state bed, as I almost felt it, the figured full draperies, the long glasses in which, for the first time, I could see myself from head to foot, all struck me--like the wonderful appeal of my small charge--as so many things thrown in. It was thrown in as well, from the first moment, that I should get on with Mrs. Grose in a relation over which, on my way, in the coach, I fear I had rather brooded. The one appearance indeed that in this early outlook might have made me shrink again was that of her being so inordinately glad to see me. I felt within half an hour that she was so glad---stout simple plain clean wholesome woman--as to be positively on her guard against showing it too much. I wondered even then a little why she should wish not to show it, and that, with reflexion, with suspicion, might of course have made me uneasy.
But it was a comfort that there could be no uneasiness in a connexion with anything so beatific as the radiant image of my little girl, the vision of whose angelic beauty had probably more than anything else to do with the restlessness that, before morning, made me several times rise and wander about my room to take in the whole picture and prospect; to watch from my open window the faint summer dawn, to look at such stretches of the rest of the house as I could catch, and to listen, while in the fading dusk the first birds began to twitter, for the possible recurrence of a sound or two, less natural and not without but within, that I had fancied I heard. There had been a moment when I believed I recognised, faint and far, the cry of a child; there had been another when I found myself just consciously starting as at the passage, before my door, of a light footstep. But these fancies were not marked enough not to be thrown off, and it is only in the light, or the gloom, I should rather say, of other and subsequent matters that they now come back to me. To watch, teach, "form" little Flora would too evidently be the making of a happy and useful life. It had been agreed between us downstairs that after this first occasion I should have her as a matter of course at night, her small white bed being already arranged, to that end, in my room. What I had undertaken was the whole care of her, and she had remained just this last time with Mrs. Grose only as an effect of our consideration for my inevitable strangeness and her natural timidity. In spite of this timidity--which the child herself, in the oddest way in the world, had been perfectly frank and M brave about, allowing it, without a sign of uncomfortable consciousness, with the deep sweet serenity indeed of one of Raphael's holy infants, to be discussed, to be imputed to her and to determine us--I felt quite sure she would presently like me. It was part of what I already liked Mrs. Grose herself for, the pleasure I could see her feel in my admiration and wonder as I sat at supper with four tall candles and with my pupil, in a high chair and a bib, brightly facing me between them over bread and milk. There were naturally things that in Flora's presence could pass between us only as prodigious and gratified looks, obscure and round-about allusions.
"And the little boy--does he look like her? Is he too so very remarkable?"
One wouldn't, it was already conveyed between us, too grossly flatter a child. "Oh Miss, most remarkable. If you mink well of this one!"--and she stood there with a plate in her hand, beaming at our companion, who looked from one of us to the other with placid heavenly eyes that contained nothing to check us.
"Yes; if I do--?"
"You will be carried away by the little gentleman!"
"Well, that, I think, is what I came for--to be carried away. I'm afraid, however," I remember feeling the impulse to add, "I'm rather easily carried away. I was carried away in London!"
I can still see Mrs. Grose's broad face as she took this in. "In Harley Street?"
"In Harley Street."
"Well, Miss, you're not the first--and you won't be the last."
"Oh I've no pretensions," I could laugh, "to being the only one. My other pupil, at any rate, as I understand, comes back to-morrow?"
"Not to-morrow--Friday, Miss. He arrives, as you did, by the coach, under care of the guard, and is to be met by the same carriage."
I forthwith wanted to know if the proper as well as the pleasant and friendly thing wouldn't therefore be that on the arrival of the public conveyance I should await him with his little sister; a proposition to which Mrs. Grose assented so heartily that I somehow took her manner as a kind of comforting pledge--never falsified, thank heaven!--that we should on every question be quite at one. Oh she was glad I was there!
What I felt the next day was, I suppose, nothing that could be fairly called a reaction from the cheer of my arrival; it was probably at the most only a slight oppression produced by a fuller measure of the scale, as I walked round them, gazed up at them, took them in, of my new circumstances. They had, as it were, an extent and mass for which I had not been prepared and in the presence of which I found myself, freshly, a little scared not less than a little proud. Regular lessons, in this agitation, certainly suffered some wrong; I reflected that my first duty was, by the gentlest arts I could contrive, to win the child into the sense of knowing me. I spent the day with her out of doors; I arranged with her, to her great satisfaction, that it should be she, she only, who might show me the place. She showed it step by step and room by room and secret by secret, with droll delightful childish talk about it and with the result, in half an hour, of our becoming tremendous friends. Young as she was I was struck, throughout our little tour, with her confidence and courage, with the way, in empty chambers and dull corridors, on crooked staircases that made me pause and even on the summit of an old machicolated square tower that made me dizzy, her morning music, her disposition to tell me so many more things than she asked, rang out and led me on. I have not seen Bly since the day I left it, and I dare say that to my present older and more informed eyes it would show a very reduced importance. But as my little conductress, with her hair of gold and her frock of blue, danced before me round corners and pattered down passages, I had the view of a castle of romance inhabited by a rosy sprite, such a place as would somehow, for diversion of the young idea, take all colour out of story-books and fairytales. Wasn't it just a story-book over which I had fallen a-doze and a-dream? No; it was a big ugly antique but convenient house, embodying a few features of a building still older, half-displaced and half-utilised, in which I had the fancy of our being almost as lost as a handful of passengers in a great drifting ship. Well, I was strangely at the helm!
All new material copyright ; 1993 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.


Excerpted from The Turn of the Screw by James, Henry Copyright © 1993 by James, Henry. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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"Flosnik assumes the upper- and lower-class accents of nineteenth-century England, delivering the different voices with the rendition of a theatrical performance." —-AudioFile

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The Turn of the Screw 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 60 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
James' prose wasn't spun out on a word processor for reading in an airport or bus station. It takes effort to follow the tightly constructed sentences. But those who do will be rewarded with a great read. No disembodied hands, moving furniture or gore, just spine-tingling horror. Having seen the film actually helps, since it was so well cast you can picture the actors as you read the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked it BUT it was a hard read. The writing and trying to "read between the lines" of what the teacher and maid are saying. But I did and I loved the gothic air.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I find Henry James' writing to be a bit dry but regarless, I still enjoyed this book. James does an excellent job of alluding to a controversial topic that was not openly talked about in Victorian England. He cleverly goes around the topic to avoid strict criticism, and does it in exquisite prose. It takes a little time to interpret but is worth it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
To fully understand this book, a lot of outside-source comprehension is needed. I bought it for a quick read, but found out I made a mistake. It's power and complete insanity was too much to handle for a one-night-read. So I threw it on the ground and went to bed. Upon waking up I stepped off the bed only to slip on the book and end up with a bed headache. When trying to read the rest, I found the pain was too unbearable. I guess it was just bad luck. If you want a classic horror story, this is a good read. . . I guess.
zinkel101 on LibraryThing 19 hours ago
Turn of the Screw is the classic story of the unreliable narrator. A governess is given charge of two children on a rather isolated estate in England. She has taken the job because it was offered by a man she has romanticized, a man she wants to impress, a man who is conspicuously absent at the estate. The two precocious children are mysterious in their beauty, their behavior, and their background. They have a bond with each other, as well as with one staffmember that borders on collusion. They have secrets, revealed in bits about their previous governess and a licentious groundskeeper who had inappropriate relationships, implied in a Victorian manner. The two predecessors, though dead, figure prominently in the story as the heroine must protect the children from their ghosts. James's method of relating the story through a third generation narrator brings into question whether the ghosts are "real" or the illusion of the governess, who, throughout the story, is defending herself. The opening chapter may be overlooked for its importance as it only introduces the thrilling tale, but much has been speculated on James's intent in using a narrator who is the friend of a man who once loved the governess, who may edit the story to defend him who may have edited the story that came from the governess herself. Love may make you do crazy things, which is why the governess's great threat is questionable in the first place. The story may be my favorite of James's works because it is different from his longer novels. He uses the unreliable narrator, in a style like Poe's, and implied psychology, leaving ambiguity for the reader to interpret.
timsreadinglist on LibraryThing 19 hours ago
Against my better judgment, I read this, my second Henry James story. So tedious! The exquisite sensitivities of his protagonist are absurd and prevent her from achieving a simple solution on every page. The protagonist and James' prose were exasperating enough to overwhelm the psychological tension and creepiness that this story is supposed to exhibit so well. William remains my favorite of the James brothers, for sure. I'll do my best to avoid Henry in the future.
KTPrymus on LibraryThing 1 days ago
Be prepared to be a bit muddled by the language of Henry James¿ seminal ghost story. The Victorian rhetoric is quite genuine and while certainly not Chaucer it prevents the modern reader from zipping along to follow the plot. While some may find this frustrating I feel this actually adds to the story. Firstly Turn of the Screw is decidedly not plot driven. The language itself is crucial to understanding the narrator whose journal comprises the bulk of the story. Secondly the language adds an element of authenticity to the story that is lacking in most modern period pieces. Thirdly the elongated sentence structure and archaic terminology add a tangible atmosphere to the story that envelopes you and forces you to look very closely at the words, which make the occasional creepy, gothic parts all that more effective.The story is a retelling of the experiences of a certain governess, hired to see to the upbringing and education of two siblings in 19th century England. The governess soon realizes that the children are being hounded by the ghosts of pervious servants and embarks upon a plan to free them from their tormentors. What gives the story its continued longevity is the ambiguous nature of the phenomenon witnessed. Is this a genuine ghost story, or the diary of a woman going mad? That is left for the reader to decide.While I can certainly see the origins of many modern ghost stories here I found the narrative a bit dull. The governess has the sort of psychological awareness of others usually reserved for third person narratives and while this adds to the mystique surrounding her own understandings and motives, it makes for somewhat repetitive reading. Still it can be read in a couple of sittings and should probably be required reading for anyone interested in ghost stories or horror in general.
saskreader on LibraryThing 8 days ago
I know this is supposed to be a classic psychological gothic-type mystery, but I just didn't find it very effective. Yes, there is a big scary secret revealed, but from my point of view (as a reader and movie-watcher in the 21st century), it just wasn't as unnerving as it was meant to be. Perhaps it should be viewed as the predecessor of all the psychological thrillers around today.
Anonymous 12 months ago
This is a turn of the century ghost story(maybe) Its very creepy and atmospheric. I loved this story. It kept you constantly turning pages. You also had to think while reading. It was very deep. Now huge spoiler alert! Stop reading now! You have been warned! I cant give this story more stars because there is no real end. You have to decide what you think the end is. I DONT WANT TO! I really just like a good story wrapped up with a nice bow. Pack all the nightmares possible in but tell me what freaking happens! It might be a ghost story, it might be a suspenseful murder mystery, or everyone might be crazy! Uuugh!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not only is this book fun and spooky, it is a classic and beautifully written. I definitely learned a lot of new vocabulary; it is a challenging read for such a short book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read as a teen and as an adult. Great prose, dark and haunting.
Prettystarfairy81 More than 1 year ago
I was looking for a spooky story to read and this book came highly recommended on various lists on various websites. Since I saw other books that I had read on these lists, I took it that this would be a great read. I couldn't have been more wrong! As much as I enjoy flowery prose, this took it to the next level of ridiculousness! I had a hard time following the story and instead of feeling sad that the book was ending, I felt relieved.
The_Book_Wheel_Blog More than 1 year ago
Last week was gloomy and rainy, so I was in the mood for a good, short ghost story. I’m a big wuss when it comes to this genre, but Rory at Fourth Street Review assured me that, as far as horror goes, this one isn’t so bad. She’s right, although if I had seen this version of the cover before reading the book, I definitely wouldn’t have picked it up. Despite its scant 120 pages, The Turn of the Screw is by no means a quick read. It’s been several years since I read Henry James and I forgot how long it takes to read his books. Regardless, it was a good one. The book centers around a woman (the narrator) who takes a job as governess to two young children, Miles and Flora, only to encounter ghostly evils that are trying to capture their attention. The problem is that the children are not only unafraid of the ghosts, they seem to want them around. This, of course, makes them susceptible to embracing the evil that is courting them. This book is a classic, so I’m not going to write a lengthy review or analysis of the story, but I will say that it’s a great book to curl up with on a dark and stormy day. It’s a good, old-fashioned ghost story, complete with a sprawling estate and creepy children. Plus, it’s in the public domain and you can read it for free! Allison @ The Book Wheel
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