The Turning: Review
Jack has taken a job babysitting for the summer in hopes of saving up some money so he can afford to go to the same college as his girlfriend, Sophie. Babysitting doesn’t sound like much fun, especially when he has to spend his summer on an island cut off from civilization. Not only that, but the ferry only visits three times a week, he’ll have no phone, no internet and no television. The job seems a bit out of sorts — a wealthy man has asked Jack to watch his orphaned niece and nephew, the uncle will not be on the island, and if there are any problems, he expects Jack and the live-in housekeeper to take care of them. He doesn’t want to be bothered. Jack is tempted to say no, but the amount of money he’s offered is enough for him to agree to the job.
When he arrives at the island, he’s happy to find that the housekeeper, Mrs. Gross, seems very normal and kind. The children, though, are slightly peculiar. They dress as though they’re from a different era and they are very quiet and reserved. He begins to sense something is off after a few days. There’s a locked room in the house, the children seem to share some unnerving secret and there are two people on the island that it seems only he can see. Is Jack imagining things, or is there something dark and dangerous lurking in the shadows?
I’m a HUGE fan of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. I’ve read it countless times, and we produced the stage version at the theatre where I work a few years ago. It’s a chilling tale of haunting and madness. Just thinking about it gives me the creeps. I had really high hopes for this one since it is a modern retelling of that book. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed. The basic story was still there, even though Ms. Prose updated it to modern times and made the governess from the original into a teen boy. The ending was also changed, and while it was okay, it felt rushed and didn’t carry the same punch as the original.
This novel is written as a series of letters, mainly from Jack to his girlfriend, Sophie. There are a few other letters peppered between the pages, but most are from Jack. I think my biggest problem was that Jack didn’t feel authentic. I just didn’t see a teen boy today speaking (or in this case, writing) the way Jack did. His phrases and word choice often didn’t work, and it really got on my nerves when he would call out Sophie by name in his letters. It would go something like, “Can you believe that, Sophie?” (This isn’t an exact quote, just an example). I wasn’t sure why that was necessary. He addressed her when he opened the letter, so we know to whom he is writing. It seems pretty trivial, but it bugged me.
I did like the children in the book, and I felt they were just as “off” as in the original story. Sadly, they were the two most interesting characters, and I wanted more from them.
This is a quick read at just under 300 pages, and if you’re not familiar with the original story, you may enjoy it more than I did. Maybe I was just too close to the original to really get into it.