Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Turn of the Screw

I like to think that I read a lot of books - certainly more than the average person. back in the day, I might have considered myself well-read ... but now, not so much. Being told to write for an audience with a fifth-grade reading level ... and eventually reading on basically the same level, must have had an effect eventually.

Anyway, I haven't read a "real" book a while. I used to love the classics, but now all I read are books that don't take much brain power ... teen fantasy, science fiction, graphic novels. Don't get me wrong: clearly I love the teenage brain sludge, otherwise I wouldn't read it ... but when I went back to the classics with "The Turn of the Screw" by Henry James, I think it made my head hurt a little.

James was a wee bit over my head. I have absolutely no idea if the narrator (the governess) was insane and imagining the whole thing, or it was supposed to be just a straight up ghost story. How can you tell when the narrator is reliable?

Quick summary: the novella begins with a friend recounting a tale of a dear friend he had, now deceased, who was a governess for a wealthy gentleman out in the country where she is instructed to care for two children, but never to contact their guardian for any reason. The story soon switches to this governess' perspective. And of course, she meets the two children, Flora and Miles and they seem perfect. Pale, blue-eyed, the whole package. And then the governess starts seeing dead people around the house. Oh, and they happen to be the previous governess and her lover. And she is the only one who can see them. And she is convinced the children can see them, too, and are being "influenced" by them ... and are just pretending to not see them.

But maybe it doesn't really matter. Either the governess was crazy or it's a straight up ghost story. I'm just not completely sure if the governess was supposed to be the bad guy, or the ghosts were supposed to be the bad guys.

Either way, it was a short novella and a nice ghost story of sorts to read in October.