The Turn of the Screw
Author: Henry James
Length: 5 hours
Narrator: Vanessa Benjamin
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Original Publication Date: 1898
Genre(s): Classics, Gothic, Short story
Two children, Flora and Miles, reside at Bly Manor and are in need of a new governess after the last one passed away. The new governess, our unnamed narrator, soon becomes unnerved at Bly, as she is convinced the two young children are being haunted. She begins to see the ghosts of two former employees: the former governess, and a valet. Our narrator is convinced that the children are able to see these ghosts, but are keeping it a secret for some unknown reason. And our narrator is going to do whatever it takes to protect the children and uncover their secrets.
October may be Oct-over, but my love for horror never ends. Unfortunately, this ghost story put me to sleep. I’m going to be honest—reading this book was dreadful, and not in the good way horror stories should be dreadful. It was more like dreadfully boring and not spooky at all. I definitely appreciate the story more after reading it, though. I’ll never read it again, and it wasn’t enjoyable, but it’s a pretty cool story overall. The experience just sucks.
This short story begins with an introduction narrated by a man sitting around a fire with a group of friends. One of the men, Douglas, offers to tell a ghost story in the form of a book written by his sister’s former governess. So begins the story, following our unnamed governess and the two children she must look after, Miles and Flora.
The story is very short but feels so much longer due to how utterly dull the story is, both in what happens and how it’s told. I’ve never read Henry James before, but if you like using 500 words to make a point that only requires maybe 20 words, you’ll love him. I thought the book was far too wordy, and the language wasn’t the easiest to listen to in an audiobook while at work. I wish I would have read the book as opposed to listening to it, though I don’t think that would have improved my opinion on it much. Though there’s ghosts and scandals and secrets and strange children and a crazy-maybe-not-crazy narrator, James manages to make all of this quite boring.
The story begins to pick up close to the end, and the final scene is the whirlwind of events that ends so abruptly I honestly thought there was a mistake with the audiobook. Like, this story has the most sudden and confusing ending I’ve ever read. So, like any normal reader of classic literature, I Googled the story for more info. And after reading up on the story, I began to appreciate it despite not enjoying the reading experience. That doesn’t necessarily make this a good book, in my opinion, but I can see why it’s a classic in the technical aspect. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy the story, and almost fell asleep every time I listened to it.
I read this story solely because The Haunting of Hill House S2 is based on the story of Bly Manor. S1 was amazing, but so was the novel it was based on. Now, for S2, I’m excited to see how they take the bones of this short story and make magic out of it. I’m sure it’s going to be a hell of a lot scarier and more interesting. Sorry, Henry James, but I’m not a fan.