Title: The Turn of the Screw
Author: Henry James
Genre: Classic/Horror/Ghost Story?
Pages: 96
Rating: 5 of 5

I love an unreliable narrator, especially in a creepy story, and this classic novella hit the spot! The introduction (which seems like it is meant to be a framing story but the frame is never completed) is a bit long-winded but the first person account by a governess of her ghost-haunted employment is satisfyingly creepy.

The big question is: are there really ghosts or is the governess mad (or a liar or some combination of the above)? I can’t decide whether the ghosts are meant to be real or not, but I’m pretty sure there’s something very wrong with the governess. Her paranoia, the way she jumps quickly to dramatic conclusions, the way she dotes on people she has just met and deliberately says things to get them “on her side,” and the way she is quick to cast the same people as villains if they cross her all remind me very much of a couple people I know who are narcissistic pathological liars whose children have suffered as a result. Maybe my interaction with some of the worst of human nature is just making me read between the lines a bit too much. Whatever the case, if you like unreliable narrators in creepy stories (or just good creepy ghost stories for that matter) this is a must read!

If you’ve read this, what did you think? (My brother-in-law informs me that it’s just ghosts…but his only reasoning is that he doesn’t like stories where the ghosts aren’t real so he doesn’t want it to be anything else.)

6 thoughts on “Ghosts or Madness?

  1. This is one of my favourite books!! I absolutely love the unreliable narrator and the ambiguity of whether the ghosts are real or not (I’ve never had a definitive answer for that but it’s part of the fun 😉 ) I’d like to go with the idea that she’s an unreliable narrator for the same reason as you (and I’m a sucker for that kind of dark character), but it can certainly read both ways. So glad you liked this!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that the lack of clear answers is a big part of the fun. Henry James’ characterization here is just amazing… as I read I just kept thinking “I know this person! It’s [name redacted to preserve legal confidentiality requirements] and this is not going to end well for the children.”

      Liked by 1 person

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