#bookaday 19: Still can't stop talking about it
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is very short - barely a novella - and one of the first books I studied for my degree. It now occurs to me that my overly intense enthusiasm for it probably made me look even more weird and nerdy than usual in the subsequent seminar, as I don't remember anyone else being even remotely excited about the book, and neither did they seem particularly interested in the endless possibilities for interpretation that are woven into the short narrative. I, however, couldn't stop wittering on about it. I probably waved my hands and pointed at people a lot as well. That was in 1995, and my enthusiasm hasn't waned. If I discover that someone has read it, I still get quite excited because it means I can browbeat them into a discussion about it.
The Turn of the Screw is a pioneering masterpiece of psychological horror. A young governess goes to a lonely house to care for two orphaned children, the startlingly bright, pretty, charming brother and sister, Miles and Flora. But are the children all that they seem? What happened to their last governess? And why will nobody talk about why Miles has been expelled from school? As the governess - young, a little naive and certainly nursing a serious crush on the children's absent uncle - spends more time in the company of the children, she learns about the previous governess, Miss Jessel, and her lover, a cruel, sinister male servant called Quint. It even seems that Miles and Flora could still be in touch with Miss Jesse and Quint ... which is odd because both of them are dead. Is the house really haunted? Do the children know - and if they do, could they be in cahoots with the ghosts, or even possessed by them? Or is the unnamed governess simply falling victim to hysteria and psychosis, dragging two innocent children into her self-created fear and paranoia? There are hundreds of potential interpretations, but the cleverest thing of all is that every single one is equally terrifying.