Henry James’ ‘Turn of the Screw’ is the quintessential ghost story, a very short book with a very large amount of fear and suspense.
An au pair’s perspective on her new charges is the narrative backbone of the novel, and her experiences in the stately home with the slightly strange children start to cause her to doubt her sanity – has she seen ghosts about the house, or is she going mad?
James keeps this ambiguous throughout the entirety of the hundred-odd pages of the novel, and for such a brief book it has an amazing amount of action, suspense and shocks. James’ handle of language can sometimes be a distraction (he loves long, descriptive sentences too much) but what is most memorable is the way in which the horror is presented to the reader – in short, shocking doses.
With its short required reading time, and its strong story, ‘Turn of the Screw’ is a fantastic achievement, and a disturbing read.