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Review of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Turn of the ScrewThe Turn of the Screw by Henry James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Prepare to wait. I suppose some call it suspense, but I was nearly always… waiting. Henry James keeps the reader waiting from one paragraph to the next, from one chapter to another. And, whenever I was one turn of the screw away from losing interest, something would crop up and pull me along.

You’re also going to be waiting from word to word for something of substance. By that I mean, the prose is consistently wordy, but oddly enough, it’s mostly all fluffy helper words necessitated by an addiction to commas. So, you see, I’ve concluded that he, Mr. James, was paid not by the word, but per each, delicately, even sensually, situated comma (I get 8 shillings for that one).

I’m not sure anyone wants to know where I fall on the question of the insane governess theory, and I’m pretty sure that I’ll spoil the novel for some reader if I blurt it out. Instead, consider these two statements: I never much care, in this work or any other, what the author intended — whether conceded or not, Melville’s chimney will always be a huge phallus. Secondly, the evidence within The Turn of the Screw is so artfully consistent that there’s only one worthy conclusion. Don’t you think? Oh, am I too ambiguous? That’s fine. It’s ambiguity that kept me turning the pages.

And, since you waited this long, I’ll just say it: I liked the book. I approached it more like a puzzle than a ghost story, and by the time it ended, I was pretty puzzled. I think that means it worked.

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