This is a chilling ghost story that I was very keen to read, but ultimately ended up feeling frustrated and confused by. It is the story of a young governess sent to a large stately home to look after two orphaned children, Miles and Flora, and as her employer (the children’s uncle) determinedly states that he wants no updates or reports from her then she is solely in charge. The governess sees two strange people around the grounds and in the house who she realises are the previous governess and valet, now dead, and she comes to believe that the children see these people also and are under their influence, and she is determined to save the children from this influence/possession. The story is narrated by the governess, which adds an extra interesting note as it is obvious other inhabitants of the house do not believe the governess and so as a reader you are unsure at times whether to believe her.

I found the book a bit difficult to follow; the language seemed vague, there are too many commas so the sentences were vague, and the narrator I felt was a bit vague also. I have seen the film so know roughly the story, and I’m not sure if from the book alone I’d have been able to follow the story.

The narrator seems to understand the ghosts’ meanings as if they have spoken, when they haven’t; similarly she seems to be able to understand the children’s knowledge of the ghosts without the children needing to state this knowledge which I found to be a huge leap of assumptions. In fact, nothing specific seems to be stated or indeed learnt, and I find this confusing to read; it all just feels like assumptions and I kept wondering if I’d understood their assumptions correctly and I felt like I was guessing all the time. It also puzzles me how readily the narrator believes the children have been influenced/possessed by ghosts, and yet she seems to think that no-one else will readily believe this so therefore doesn’t tell anyone or apply to anyone for help, which seems very inconsistent. I also found the conclusion just as puzzling as the rest of the book; is Flora now free from the ghosts once she has been taken away from the house, in which case why weren’t both children taken away earlier? Is Miles dead at the end, in which case I wanted further explanations such as how did she explain his death and was she suspected of being involved in his death?

It is a gripping story, but my over-riding feeling is dissatisfaction at the vagueness of it, the lack of explanations, and the readiness of the narrator to assume things. Having spoken to other people about the book, however, I am advised that a second read is useful as more is often revealed in a re-read so I will try again and see if I feel less frustrated by it second time round!




Turn of the Screw
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