Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Source: Librivox
Length: 5 hr, 43 min
Reader: Nikolle Doolin

The book: A young lady, charmed by a young gentleman in London, agrees to take up a job as a governess to his orphaned niece and nephew. After arriving at the country estate where the children live, the governess begins to see figures around the estate that do not seem to fit with any of the servants currently living there. She learns from other servants that the former governess, Miss Jessel, and her lover, Peter Quint, died mysteriously shortly before she was hired. Are the figures she has been seeing the ghosts of this couple or is it all in her mind?

James keeps up this ambiguity throughout the book, constructing dialogues and events that seem diabolical under one viewpoint and another perfectly innocent by another. The book is told from the 1st person perspective of the governess. This narrator is the only one who seems to notice the ghosts and their effects on the children, but we as readers are not sure we can trust this young lady. The degree to which James draws out the governess's decent into horror is a bit frustrating at times, but really, this is a short book and a classic in psychology.

Rating: 7/10

The reader: Ms. Doolin sounds like a professional. Her reading is polished, using pauses and inflection to great effect. I found it interesting to compare the voice of the narrator from the first chapters where she is bright and innocent to the later where you can hear the suspicion in her voice. The other characters are not given full-fledged voices, but Ms. Doolin alters her diction and pitch enough to let us know who is talking. The recording is clean and noiseless.

2 comments:

Erez said...

Sorry for the flood of comments, but just one quick technical note: I think Ms. Doolin spells her first name "Nikolle", not "Nichole".

Listener said...

Thanks, I've corrected it. Don't worry about commenting too much -- you always have interesting or useful things to say, so I enjoy your comments.