Publisher: Penguin Classics

Classic Curiosity – The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

June 27, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Classic Curiosity, Read in 2015 4 Comments

Classic Curiosity – The Turn of the Screw by Henry JamesThe Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Published by Penguin Classics on October 13th 1898
Pages: 96
Genres: Classics, Ghosties, Gothic, Horror
Format: eBook
Source: Freebie
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three-stars

A chilling ghost story, wrought with tantalising ambiguity, Henry James's The Turn of the Screw is edited with an introduction and notes by David Bromwich in Penguin Classics. In what Henry James called a 'trap for the unwary', The Turn of the Screw tells of a nameless young governess sent to a country house to take charge of two orphans, Miles and Flora. Unsettled by a dark foreboding of menace within the house, she soon comes to believe that something malevolent is stalking the children in her care. But is the threat to her young charges really a malign and ghostly presence or something else entirely? The Turn of the Screw is James's great masterpiece of haunting atmosphere and unbearable tension and has influenced subsequent ghost stories and films such as The Innocents, starring Deborah Kerr, and The Others, starring Nicole Kidman.

“No, no—there are depths, depths! The more I go over it, the more I see in it, and the more I see in it, the more I fear. I don’t know what I don’t see—what I don’t fear!”

Being a fan of horror novels and especially ghost stories, I’ve been eager to make my way to more of the classics so as to see for myself where horror originated. The Turn of the Screw is one those, featuring two children who appear to be consorting with ghosts and a governess who’s sole purpose in life has become to save the children from these evil spiritual entities. Intriguing, but the incredible dense writing really killed this for me despite its short length.

“Here at present I felt afresh—for I had felt it again and again—how my equilibrium depended on the success of my rigid will, the will to shut my eyes as tight as possible to the truth that what I had to deal with was, revoltingly, against nature. I could only get on at all by taking “nature” into my confidence and my account, by treating my monstrous ordeal as a push in a direction unusual, of course, and unpleasant, but demanding, after all, for a fair front, only another turn of the screw of ordinary human virtue.”

Interestingly enough though, upon reflection, I realized that it’s more impressive novel than I originally thought. The story is less straightforward than it would appear, where the children may or may not be seeing ghosts and the governess may or may not be going mad. Were the children lying all along about not being able to see the ghosts? If they were, did that in effect push the governess over the edge, believing herself to be seeing something and then being told that no one else sees it but her? That would be enough to twist anyone’s mind. But if the children were being honest all along, the governess was, in fact, the only horror the children were witnessing.

“I was a screen– I was their protector. The more I saw, the less they would.”

Considering that our narrator is, in fact, the governess, working with an unreliable narrator leaves the reader in charge of separating fact from fiction. And James’ continued ambiguity to the very end of this short tale subsequently leaves it up to the reader to decide what was truly happening all along. I’m a bit on the fence myself, believing that both circumstances are believably terrifying and equally likely.

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Classic Curiosity – The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

May 22, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Classic Curiosity, Read in 2015 0 Comments

Classic Curiosity – The Lottery by Shirley JacksonThe Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Published by Penguin Classics on June 26th 1948
Pages: 16
Genres: Classics, Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Literary Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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four-stars

Shirley Jackson's unnerving, macabre tale of random cruelty, The Lottery is one of the most iconic stories ever written, and a touchstone for writers such as Neil Gaiman and Stephen King. "Shirley Jackson's stories are among the most terrifying ever written". (Donna Tartt). Every year the villagers gather. They can't remember when the Lottery started. Much of the original ceremony has been forgotten or discarded; the first black box lost. But the ritual always ends in the same way...Shirley Jackson's chilling tales of creeping unease and casual cruelty have the power to unsettle and terrify unlike any other.

‘The people of the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the bank, around ten o’clock.’

In a seemingly normal town, everyone gathers together to conduct the annual traditional lottery. What is the lottery exactly? Well, you don’t truly discover the magnitude of its horror until the final passage. A lottery is typically a good thing but in this small town its anything but. Certain things throughout this short story hint at what’s to come: the nervous energy of the people, the implication that the lottery serves a purpose regarding the future of the crops, and the piles of stones that the kids begin to gather.

What made this story the eeriest is the whole mystery behind the lottery. No one truly knows when it actually started, why it ever started, only that it is and must keep going for tradition’s sake. It’s mentioned that other towns have done away with the practice and the idea is immediately dismissed as folly. Just the concept of not doing the lottery, of doing away with tradition, is enough to frighten everyone not knowing the possible implications not doing it would cause.

This patriarchal society in the unnamed village has the men draw the slip of paper that ultimately decides whether their family is the selected recipient of the lottery. The only instance where this differs is when the man is unable to attend the lottery (such as the man named Dunbar that was home with a broken leg) or if an elder son is able to draw for his mother if she doesn’t have a husband. Once selected, each individual (even women) are then given their opportunity to select their own piece of paper. Published in 1948, Shirley Jackson’s short story is a telling criticism of the powerlessness that women faced, and unfortunately still face to this day. While the idea of the lottery is clearly exaggerated, the idea of the strength and fierceness of traditions and patriarchy is extremely realistic.

“It isn’t fair, it isn’t right.”

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Short Story Review – The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark

December 24, 2011 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011, Short Stories 0 Comments

Short Story Review – The Driver’s Seat by Muriel SparkThe Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark
Published by Penguin Classics on 1970
Pages: 128
Genres: Classics
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
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three-stars

Lise leaves her home in northern Europe for a holiday, but it is not rest and relaxation that she is looking for...

Driven to distraction by an office job, she leaves everything and flies south on holiday—in search of passionate adventure, the obsessional experience and sex. Infinity and eternity attend Lise's last terrible day in the unnamed southern city that is her final destination.

I had a really hard time at first getting a grasp of what this story was really about. Essentially, it’s about a peculiar woman named Lise who travels to a Southern European city, presumably Naples, to meet a supposed boyfriend. Once she arrives, all the men she meets she’s mentally judging them based upon whether they are ‘her type’ or not. It’s not till later in the story you realize she’s looking for a specific ‘type’ for a completely different reason than you may originally think. By the beginning of the third chapter, you’re already made aware of a shocking fact:

’She will be found tomorrow morning dead from multiple stab-wounds, her wrists bound with a silk scarf and her ankles bound with a man’s necktie, in the ground of an empty villa, in a park of the foreign city to which she is travelling on the flight now boarding at Gate 14.’

It’s tough not to become immediately enthralled in watching the rest of the story progress to find out how this could possibly have occurred.

There’s something incredibly strange about this woman but it’s never revealed what exactly is wrong with her or why she is the way she is. (But then again, many of the characters in this story are odd. Like Bill? And his ‘I haven’t had my daily orgasm. It’s an essential part of this particular variation of the diet, didn’t I tell you?’ Excuse me?!?) You catch a glimpse early on in the story of her mental instability when she proceeds to flip out on a sales woman who attempted to sell her a dress made of stain resistant material. She took this as a personal insult as if the sales woman was attempting to say that she was a messy eater.

“Do you think I spill things on my clothes?” the customer shrieks. “Do I look as if I don’t eat properly?”

Suffice it to say that was her first but not final moment of unpredictability. She’s a habitual liar and it’s quite shocking how easily the lies flow from her mouth. And she definitely found her type in the end.

“Will you feel a presence? Is that how you’ll know?”
“Not really a presence,” Lise says. The lack of an absence, that’s what it is. I know I’ll find it. I keep on making mistakes, though.”

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Book Review – A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes #1) by Arthur Conan Doyle

October 28, 2011 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011 0 Comments

Book Review – A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes #1) by Arthur Conan DoyleA Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
Series: Sherlock Holmes #1
Published by Penguin Classics on October 1st 2001 (first published 1887)
Pages: 192
Genres: Classics, Mystery
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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three-stars

In the debut of literature's most famous sleuth, a dead man is discovered in a bloodstained room in Brixton. The only clues are a wedding ring, a gold watch, a pocket edition of Boccaccio's Decameron, and a word scrawled in blood on the wall. With this investigation begins the partnership of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Their search for the murderer uncovers a story of love and revenge-and heralds a franchise of detective mysteries starring the formidable Holmes.

Part I: This being the first story in the Sherlock Holmes series, this is also the introduction of the two main characters: Holmes and Watson. After meeting one another they agree to move in together as they were both in need of a roommate. Shortly after, a man is discovered as being murdered and Sherlock Holmes is asked to evaluate the scene to determine if there is any evidence of who may have done it. The only clue is a woman’s wedding ring and the words “RACHE” written in blood on the wall.

Okay so… I think I have a bit of a crush. I loved Sherlock eccentricity and how unconventional he was. I will admit, the mystery wasn’t really much of a mystery but it was still entertaining nonetheless. It did get a big “oooohhhhhhhhh….” from me once the mystery was finally solved though. Silly me, probably should have seen that one coming.

‘There is no mystery about it at all. I am simply applying to ordinary life a few of those precepts of observation and deduction which I advocated in that article. Is there anything else that puzzles you?’

Part II: So, umm… I thought I missed something. The second half of this book was almost like a different book entirely and all of a sudden I’m right smack dab in the middle of Utah and everyone has buckets o’ wives?

Anyways. Essentially, the second half of this book was a major bash-fest on the Mormons. I figure that’s why it ended up on the banned book list.

“We have come,” continued Stangerson, “at the advice of our fathers to solicit the hand of your daughter for whichever of us may seem good to you and to her. As I have but four wives and Brother Drebber here has seven, it appears to me that my claim is the stronger one.”

Uh-huh. Five is definitely better than eight.

Overall, pretty enjoyable, would definitely be interested in reading more about Sherlock most definitely.

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