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why and how you read this book, and what you get out of it:
on October 19, 2003
Confusing, different, but enjoyable if you understand it, this is not a light novel. The Turn of the Screw: absolutely different. (That for all of you who would like to know why this little 86 page quasi-novella is considered a "classic").
How to read this book: Rather than looking onto another person's life, (like you would with any other novel), you need to get inside it. This is particularly disturbing because the narrator is mad. Crawl into her head, and start seeing things from her eyes -- but don't forget the fact that you're in there! Everything you see is distorted. Yes, everything she says is verbose, too complex, and ambiguous, but if she were to write short, clear sentences, you would understand it, wouldn't you? She's insane ... insane people are not straightforward in any way. If you are wondering why you are reading a page over and over again, and not quite getting it, you're doing exactly what Henry James wants you to do: he's turning your screw. This can be a terrifying novel because everything you see it through the eyes of an insane woman ... but this is not a ghost story. That is too simple an explanation. James plants evidence which could sway you to one direction, but he always counteracts it with another piece of information leading to another conclusion: in other words, it leaves you lost. A plot can only be identified once you come to terms with the fact that your narrator is a psychopath.
If you look closely, the sexuality in this book is widely used. In the 19th century, to speak openly of sex was forbidden, so hints are dropped instead, (pay particularly close attention to Miles). Some critics call the governess a sexually suppressed woman -- her cause of madness is thus. You decide.
But whatever you do, bear in mind that this book is different. You can't simply read it ... you have to read it, think about it, and decide whether you want to believe whatever is said. It can be a frustrating read, but it can also be well worth it.