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review 2020-06-06 14:52
The Turn of the Screw
The Turn of the Screw - Henry James

by Henry James


After reading the first couple of chapters, I actually went onto Wikipedia to find out what this story is about. I felt like I had come into the middle of something that hadn't been explained.


This is actually not unusual for stories written around the turn of the century. They have the wordiness of Victorian novels but often jump into the action without much explanation. I hadn't read James before and doubt that I will read anything by him again. I'm glad to have tried another well known author, even if he isn't going to be of further interest.


I found the story very difficult to get into. The dialogue sounded like everyone was in a perpetual state of surprise, the characters were not distinct and the plot seemed to take far too long to progress. For a short book, that's not good. The description had sounded really good. I'm just not at all impressed with the execution. Reading felt like more work that ploughing through a long Dickens book.

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review 2019-11-18 22:39
Roderick Hudson (James)
Roderick Hudson - Henry James

This is the first novel James was willing, in later life, to acknowledge, though not the first he wrote. That in itself tells you that he thought it had some merit, even if we didn't have the long afterword explaining in those interminable late-James sentences all the various emotions and thoughts that occur upon re-reading this early work.


After a bit of not very serious self-criticism about his handling of Roderick's decline of character (James could have afforded to be more severe, in my opinion), he comes eventually to the point that is necessary to understand and enjoy the novel:

The centre of interest throughout "Roderick" is in Rowland Mallet's consciousness, and the drama is the very drama of that consciousness - which I had of course to make sufficiently acute, in order to enable it, like a set and lighted scene, to hold the play.

In other words (at least in my estimation) Rowland Mallet is a far more interesting character than Roderick Hudson. In may in fact be true, as others have posited, that the Ro-Ro pair are, unconsciously or by design, representing two facets of James' self-understanding, but if that is the case, he clearly understands the urbane, rational Rowland part far better, and was unable to make this reader, at least, as fond of selfish, lazy, self-destructive Roderick as either Mallett or James is.


I did like the foreshadowing of Roderick's fate: the two rockclimbing incidents worked very well as metaphor.


I am in two minds about the young female character, Christina Light, who appears to have rather taken over the narrative just as she took over Hudson's imagination. She is most emphatically annoying and no great advertisement for womanhood - or indeed New Womanhood, if that was part of James' intention. (I suppose the comparatively bland and underdeveloped Mary Garland was intended as her foil in that respect). But I was occasionally struck by insights into the nature and causes of her annoying and irrational behaviour; insights that resonated with my own memories of late adolescence as being surprisingly apt, especially from a male author:

She had a fictitious history in which she believed much more fondly than in her real one, and an infinite capacity for extemporized reminiscence adapted to the mood of the hour. She liked to idealize herself, to take interesting and picturesque attitudes to her own imagination; and the vivacity and spontaneity of her character gave her, really, a starting-point in experience; so that the many-colored flowers of fiction which blossomed in her talk were not so much perversions, as sympathetic exaggerations of fact.


"The many-colored flowers of fiction which blossomed in her talk" is really very good - it captures the natural spontaneity of that kind of experimental role-playing, while harmlessly chattering, in a young person. Elsewhere I'm not inclined to be quite so kind to the drunken wordiness of even this early Henry James. I laughed and highlighted this little monstrosity, for instance: "There are chance anfractuosities of ruin in the upper portions of the Coliseum..." (I do realize I'm a bit inconsistent, since I've said I enjoy unnecessary Latinate coinages when Bulwer-Lytton makes them. I think it may be a question of whether the author is being obviously playful!)


James leaves us only shortly after Roderick Hudson does, in the novel, and does not trouble to try to work out to its logical conclusion the "preferred" pairing of Mallett and Mary Garland. At the end, we are merely told that he visits her often at his cousin's house, and we are left to finish that story for ourselves how we like. I am OK with this conclusion; I'd be curious how it struck novel-readers in the 1870s.


I found this accessible, with occasional moments of real emotional interest.

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review 2019-10-19 00:00
The Turn of the Screw
The Turn of the Screw - Henry James 3.5 Stars

The Turn of the Screw was written in 1898 and first appeared in serial format in Collier's Weekly This was a time when life was lived at a slower pace and Ghost /Gothic Horror Stories were the Reality TV shows of to day and in order to read this book one must take them selves back in time and experience this as a reader in 1898 in order to get the most of the book.

I throughly enjoy good old fashioned Ghost Stories, and especially ones where the writer allows the reader come to their own conclusion as to what exactly happened in the story and I can imagine The Turn of The Screw created great discussion among readers back in the day. I loved the execution of this story as the sense of time and place is not overplayed and yet its presence is powerful and the carefully crafted eerie atmospheric is subtly clever.

While I liked the way the story is presented to the reader and I enjoyed the opportunity to draw my own conclusions, I think the author did not give the reader enough facts to do so and this was a bit disappointing and my reason for my rating on this short novel.

Having said that I enjoyed this short novel and it was perfect October/Halloween reading.
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review 2019-09-02 15:43
The Portrait of a Lady - Henry James

- Il se meurt faute d'un mot d'encouragement. Je revois son visage, son air grave et absorbé pendant que je lui parlais. Je n'ai jamais vu un homme laid paraître aussi beau.

- Vous m'aurez grandement obligée!
- Et quelle sera ma récompense?
- Vous voulez être récompensé d'un acte généreux?
- Oui, quand il implique un grand sacrifice.
- Il n'y a pas de générosité sans quelque sacrifice.

- Comment aurions-nous pu évoquer ce sujet? M. Merle était encore vivant.
- Est-il mort à présent?
- C'est ce qu'elle dit.
- Et vous ne la croyez pas?
- Si, parce que sa déclaration concorde avec les probabilités. Le mari de Madame Merle était susceptible de disparaître.
Isabel dévisagea son cousin :
- Je ne comprends pas ce que vous voulez dire. Vous sous-entendez quelque chose que vous n'exprimez pas. Qui était M. Merle?
- Le mari de Madame.
- Vous êtes odieux! A-t-elle des enfants?
- Pas le moindre petit enfant. Heureusement.
- Heureusement?
- Je veux dire heureusement pour le petit enfant. Elle l'aurait gâté.

- Je ne sais quelle idée vous vous faites du succès; personnellement, il me semble que vous l'avez atteint. Pour moi, vous êtes l'image vivante de la réussite.
Madame Merle reposa la partition avec un sourire:
- Quelle idée vous faites-vous de la réussite?
- Vous pensez sûrement qu'elle doit être très anodine. C'est de voir un rêve de jeunesse se réaliser.
- Ah! s'écria Madame Merle, voilà qui ne m'est jamais arrivé! Mes rêves étaient si grandioses, si contraires au bon sens! Dieu me pardonne, je rêve encore!

- A ma manière, j'en ai fait une bonne chose. N'allez pas croire que je me plaigne. Les gens malheureux ne peuvent s'en prendre qu'à eux.

- Je pense que c'est très beau, dit Osmond. Vous connaissez mes opinions, je vous en ai assez parlé. Auriez-vous oublié ce que je vous ai dit : il faudrait que chacun fît de son existence une œuvre d'art? Vous avez paru un peu effarouchée d'abord; puis j'ai ajouté que c'était précisément ce que vous sembliez vouloir faire de la vôtre.

Elle savourait les délices de cette préférence qui lui firent prendre conscience, avec terreur presque, de la force enviable et impitoyable de sa condition de femme séduite et possédée, si grands fussent l'honneur et la vertu traditionnellement attachés à l'état amoureux. C'était la part tragique du bonheur : ce qui est bon pour l'un est toujours le fait du mal subi par un autre.

- C'est justement ma noirceur qui l'a sidérée. Je ne pouvais y résister, j'étais la proie du mal. Peut-être était-ce une bonne chose, je ne sais pas. Vous n'avez pas seulement tari mes pleurs, vous avez aussi desséché mon âme.

- Quelle importance que je me fatigue alors que j'ai l'éternité pour me reposer?

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text 2019-08-12 00:54
Halloween Bingo Pre-Party: Bring on the Horror - Tell Us Your Favorite Horror Reads, and How Scary Are They?
Revival - Stephen King
The Turn of the Screw - Henry James
Bag of Bones - Stephen King
It - Stephen King
The Woman in Black - Susan Hill,John Lawrence
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Washington Irving
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark - Alvin Schwartz,Stephen Gammell
The Girl Next Door - Jack Ketchum
The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson,Laura Miller
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie

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