I started to read this short novel when I was in high school over 40 years ago. I had always meant to get back to it and finally at Halloween this year, I decided to do so. Well - not sure what to say. The late-Victorian prose of James was, at times, very hard to decipher. The story itself was very unsettling and left you with a lot of ambiguities and unanswered questions. There were hints of homosexuality, pedophilia, illicit love affairs, and other sorts of assorted evils; however, they were only hints - the reader is left to make his/her own interpretations. And then there were the ghosts that presented themselves only to the governess - were these all in her mind or did the children also perceive the spirits as the governess insisted? Like I said earlier, the language was very hard to interpret. I decided to use SparkNotes as I was reading this to make sure I was making the correct interpretations of the text. I would recommend this to other readers. Overall, an interesting short novel (only 134 pages).
Quite a mysterious story, intriguing example of early horror.
A very young woman's first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate...
An estate haunted by beckoning evil.
Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows-silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls...
But worse-much worse-the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil.
For they want the walking dead as badly as the dead want them.
I think I would have loved this if it had been a short story. As a full length story, it bored me. Mr. James knew a lot of words. He wanted to make sure readers to knew this. He made sure he used every adverb and adjective he could think of. And Holy Prepositional phrases, Batman! There were single sentences that could have easily been their own paragraphs. There were times I had to reread sections two or three times to actually figure out what was going on. Then there were the characters. They were just too over the top right from the start for me. I like to get to know the characters and their quirks as a story progresses. I like to see madness slowly grow ( Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House is the perfect example of this). Here, as each character was introduce, we were told almost everything about them. What you weren't told you could figure out within their first few sentences of them speaking.
This was not a good first impression of the author for me. His writing was too pretentious. I will still try at least one of his other titles. However, if the writing style is the same, I see them being DNFs.
A gentleman tells the tale of a naive governess responsible for two young children who starts to see ghosts haunting them. But are there really ghosts or is the governess insane?
I almost gave up on this book due to how irritating I found the governess, but I'm glad I didn't. The ambiguous ending left me far more thrilled than most traditional ghost stories do. Additionally, once I realized James probably intentionally wrote the governess as an annoying result of the restrictive Victorian society, I developed a far greater appreciation for the tale. Once you know you're not necessarily supposed to sympathize with a character, they become far less annoying. I recommend it to those who enjoy ambiguous tales and Victorian settings, but if you're looking for a traditional ghost tale, look elsewhere.
Check out my full review
I read this "classic" for book club, and none in our group found it interesting or enjoyable. The style of writing is antiquated and very challenging to decipher. The entire plot could be described in a simple paragraph. If it weren't for SparkNotes, I'd still be wondered what I read. I can't understand why this is considered a classic.
The only thing I really enjoyed was Emma Thompson's performance. She's what kept me listing (and reading along at some parts).
I just didn't get it? It didn't get me? It literally did not pull me into the story or hold my true interest. Perhaps a second reading/listening in the future.