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The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
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The Turn of the Screw: 09/04/21

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is a horror novella from 1898. When I first read it, it was nearly one hundred years old. That first attempt didn't go well. It was one of the rare books I've finished that I rated one star (usually reserved for those did not finish volumes).

Twenty-three years later I watched and thoroughly enjoyed the Netflix television adaptation, The Haunting of Bly Manor by the same people who adapted The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959). Wondering if I had missed something the first time through, I decided to re-read the book.

A nameless governess is hired to watch a pair of young orphans in a remote manor where their uncle refuses to visit. The previous governess is dead as is another former employee. Over her short tenure there, she sees a ghost and realizes that the boy, Miles, is probably possessed. And then Miles dies.

There's really and truly not much to the source material. Take away the Gothic trappings and the novella would probably shrink to a short story of maybe twenty pages. Henry James, though, padded nearly every sentence with copious amounts of words.

The extra words James used fall into one of two categories. The first is to warn the reader to look away before he relates the next scary thing. The second is to relate how the governess is feeling. She's either too scared to believe her eyes, extremely skeptical, or very worried. Throughout this re-read I spent most of my time wishing either the narrator or the governess would get to the bloody point.

So the tl:dr is that I enjoyed The Haunting of Bly Manor because it's a damn good adaptation and update. Also, endemic to the production team being American, the television series sits on the road narrative spectrum, whereas the source material does not.

Three stars

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