Monday, October 8, 2012

The Turning by Francine Prose

While spending the summer on a remote island with no internet and no tv would be as unappealing as you can get for most teens, Jack is more than willing to give it a try. See, Jack has been hired to take care of two children for the summer, and though it means spending those months away from his girlfriend, it also means a big boost towards his college funds. Flora and Miles are great. They're odd, to be sure, but they're well behaved and completely unlike most kids today. But Jack soon becomes convinced that something isn't quite right at the house. First there's the fact that he's seen two strange individuals on the island -- people no one but him seems to have seen. Then there's the secret of the locked room and the shared looks the kids frequently give one another. Could Jack be imagining things thanks to the whispered rumors of strange happenings at Crackstone's Landing or is there something more sinister going on?

First and foremost it must be understood that Francine's Prose's latest is a new YA interpretation of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. That said, I can only imagine that The Turning is meant to be read by an audience completely unfamiliar with James's story. Since I am somewhat familiar, I have to admit that I was more than a little disappointed. I'd hoped that Prose would offer not only a modern twist to the story but something fresh and new as well. This was very much not the case.

Second, I found that Prose's use of letters here to tell Jack's story took away all opportunity to build the atmosphere James's tale is so well known for. The creepiness factor just wasn't there and I blame it wholly on the epistolary style.

Sadly, I just didn't enjoy Prose's outing. But that's not to say that someone who has never read James or seen any adaptation of the story won't feel differently. I would definitely suggest the extra effort of reading The Turn of the Screw, which, if you have an ereader, can actually be downloaded for free courtesy of the amazing Project Gutenberg folks here. I'd also recommend, in this Halloween season, tracking down a copy of the 1961 film The Innocents starring Deborah Kerr.


Christina said...

Oooh, sad. I won a copy of this one, and I hope I connect with it more than you did. I need to read James' story first, though.

Jenn's Bookshelves said...

Well, drat. I have this one coming up in my review pile. May give it a try...just in case.

S. said...

I love The Turn of the Screw so if this story doesn't do it justice I will probably give it a skip. FYI for anyone interested, the Masterpiece Theatre version of Turn of the Screw (1999) is really well done and even has a cameo by Colin Firth (swoon!).

Tea said...

I like this one. Have written it down.