HarperCollins is proud to present its new range of best-loved, essential classics. 'The place, with its grey sky and withered garlands, its bared spaces and scattered dead leaves, was like a theatre after the performance-all strewn with crumpled playbills.' Revered as one of the greatest ghost stories ever told, James's The Turn of the Screw is an eerie Victorian masterpiece. When an inexperienced governess goes to work at Bly, a country house in Essex to look after a young boy Miles and his sister Flora, all manner of strange events begin to occur. The governess spots a ghostly man and woman around the grounds and is told by the housekeeper that the valet and previous governess haunt the house. It soon becomes clear that the children are inexplicably connected to these ghosts in some way and the young governess struggles to protect the children, although from exactly what, she is not sure. Exploring the psychological and sexual fears of an era, this ambiguous, suspenseful and anxiety-inspiring novella remains one of Henry James's most well-known tales.
The story starts conventionally enough with friends sharing ghost stories 'round the fire on Christmas Eve. One of the guests tells about a governess at a country house plagued by supernatural visitors. But in the hands of Henry James, the master of nuance, this little tale of terror is an exquisite gem of sexual and psychological ambiguity. Only the young governess can see the ghosts; only she suspects that the previous governess and her lover are controlling the two orphaned children (a girl and a boy) for some evil purpose. The household staff don't know what she's talking about, the children are evasive when questioned, and the master of the house (the children's uncle) is absent. Why does the young girl claim not to see a perfectly visible woman standing on the far side of the lake? Are the children being deceptive, or is the governess being paranoid? By leaving the questions unanswered, The Turn of Screw generates spine-tingling anxiety in its mesmerized readers.