A young governess turns up at a country estate in Essex to care for Miles and Flora, two young orphans left in care of their absentee uncle. Soon after her tenure begins, the governess begins to see strangers walking the grounds, and interacting with the siblings in odd and disturbing ways. The governess begins to feel they are not wholly human—but rather are ghosts haunting Miles and Flora, and their influence upon the children has tragic consequences.
First published in 1898, Henry James’s sinister story of the psychological and physical effects of the malevolent figures has been adapted for film countless times, most notably as the basis for The Innocents (1961). It also served as inspiration for Alejandro Amenábar’s spectacularly eerie 2001 film The Others, starring Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccelston, and Fionnula Flanagan.
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The story starts conventionally enough with friends sharing ghost stories 'round the fire on Christmas Eve. One of the guests tells about a governess at a country house plagued by supernatural visitors. But in the hands of Henry James, the master of nuance, this little tale of terror is an exquisite gem of sexual and psychological ambiguity. Only the young governess can see the ghosts; only she suspects that the previous governess and her lover are controlling the two orphaned children (a girl and a boy) for some evil purpose.
The household staff don't know what she's talking about, the children are evasive when questioned, and the master of the house (the children's uncle) is absent. Why does the young girl claim not to see a perfectly visible woman standing on the far side of the lake? Are the children being deceptive, or is the governess being paranoid? By leaving the questions unanswered, The Turn of Screw generates spine-tingling anxiety in its mesmerized readers.
''Both narrators are skilled and capable and render James' complex prose as clearly as it would be on the page, if not more so. Benjamin conveys the classic question of the governess's reliability by making her voice pleasant and reasonable yet increasingly self-justifying and high-strung . . . Through her narration the eerie, claustrophobic effect of James's tale is heightened -- just what a good audiobook should do.'' -- AudioFile
''In rich and mellow tones, Vance dramatically introduces this classic ghost tale . . . Benjamin's reading of the story, in a sweet British accent, is a calming contrast . . . but when appropriate, Benjamin's tones alter the mood dramatically . . . Benjamin's accent and emotional undercurrents are just right. This excellent production highlights James' gorgeous prose and skill at creating and sustaining a mood of growing unease and horror.'' --Booklist
''This enigmatic, chilling, classic ghost story is especially well told in semivoiced narrations.'' -- SoundCommentary.com
''More than a horrific ghost story, The Turn of the Screw is an enigmatic and disturbing psychological novel that probes the source of terror in neuroses and moral degradation . . . The Turn of the Screw will continue to fascinate and to intrigue because James' 'cold artistic calculation' has so filled it with suggestiveness and intentional ambiguity that it may be read at different levels and with new revelations at each successive reading.'' -- Masterpieces of World Literature
About the Author
Henry James, OM (15 April 1843 – 28 February 1916) was an American writer who spent most of his writing career in Britain. He is regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. He was the son of Henry James, Sr. and the brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James.
James alternated between America and Europe for the first 20 years of his life; eventually he settled in England, becoming a British subject in 1915, one year before his death. He is best known for a number of novels showing Americans encountering Europe and Europeans. His method of writing from the point of view of a character within a tale allows him to explore issues related to consciousness and perception, and his style in later works has been compared to impressionist painting.
James contributed significantly to literary criticism, particularly in his insistence that writers be allowed the greatest possible freedom in presenting their view of the world. James claimed that a text must first and foremost be realistic and contain a representation of life that is recognisable to its readers. Good novels, to James, show life in action and are, most importantly, interesting. His imaginative use of point of view, interior monologue and possibly unreliable narrators in his own novels and tales brought a new depth and interest to narrative fiction.
An extraordinarily productive writer, in addition to his voluminous works of fiction he published articles and books of travel, biography, autobiography, and criticism, and wrote plays, some of which were performed during his lifetime, though with limited success. His theatrical work is thought to have profoundly influenced his later novels and tales.
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