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LJ Ross Book Club:  November
Staying in
November 2021
Reading time 1 Minute

Northumberland-born LJ Ross is the bestselling author of the DCI Ryan murder mystery series. Each month, she shares an exclusive Book Club pick with Living North readers

This month’s Halloween reading comes in the form of Henry James’ classic Gothic horror novella, The Turn of the Screw. First serialised in ‘Collier’s Weekly’ in 1898, it tells the story of a governess who is engaged by a man who has become responsible for his niece and nephew to care for the two children at his remote estate in Essex. When the governess begins to see seemingly supernatural figures of a young man and woman wandering the estate, she becomes convinced it is haunted.
HENRY JAMES – THE TURN OF THE SCREW

HENRY JAMES – THE TURN OF THE SCREW

LJ’S THOUGHTS: ‘The beauty of James’ writing lies in his adherence to the first rule of writing a good ghost story, which is to exploit the reader’s imagination by leaving much left unsaid. The degree of menace takes on a creeping force as the novel progresses to its crescendo, and James’ use of first-person narrative adds to our feeling of sympathy with the governess, for we are seeing Bly Estate and its haunted figures through her eyes, which feel like our own. It’s a finely crafted story with shades of other Gothic novels of the time, most notably Jane Eyre, and draws upon similar themes of class and gender, yet it differs from other horror novels of the era by sticking to one continuous narrative, rather than relying on digressions or flashback scenes such as might be found in Dracula. To top it off, James’ ghosts occupy living forms and are not bound in rattling chains, which adds another cunning layer of threat in the reader’s mind, divorcing us from the comforting idea that ‘it’s only a story, after all’. Perfect reading for the season, but don’t forget to lock your doors…’

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