Archive for November 9th, 2008

When one reading trail such as the Jamesian Experiment Part 2 leads to the same title as another, Glenfarron, it’s time to pick up the book in question and get on with it.

James’ The Turn of the Screw is accepted as one of the best ghost stories of all time and that’s possibly why I’d never read it.  Not my genre at all.  Still reading trails converging is a sign not to be ignored.

The gist of the plot is quite simple.  A governess finds herself charged with the care of two orphans.  Their uncle finances their upbringing although he wants to play no active part.  When she takes up her position, she begins to see strange people and gradually she becomes convinced that these are apparitions of her predecessor and her lover.  The reader, however, is not so sure.  Because scattered in the text are hints that the governess may be losing her mind.  Why?  Because her charges are outwardly too well-behaved.  This is too good to be true and the boy must have been expelled from his boarding school for some reason, mustn’t he?

At first I was convinced that the ghosts were real.  Then I wasn’t and a couple of weeks later, I need to reread to see what I believe.  James’s narrative skill is triumphant.  In the preface to his final ghost story, The Jolly Corner, he wrote that he preferred to create ghosts that were eerie extensions of everyday reality – “the strange and the sinister embroidered on the very type of the normal and easy.”  The debate with regard to The Turn of the Screw is whether the strange and sinister embroidery is sewn only the mind of the governess.   Tough call when the main narrative is written in the first person – the governess’s voice is overwhelming and very involving and objective distance is very hard to achieve.  It’s no wonder that the story has spawned an industry in literary criticism in the 100+ years since it was first published!

In Glenfarron, Jonathan Falla transposes that ghostliness and doubt to the Scottish Highlands in the mid-1970’s.  A young couple move from the city into the highland village where the young woman begins to display the same symptoms as James’s governess, when she develops an obsession with the nearby, but thankfully no longer active, leper colony.  (Yes, you’ll learn things about Scottish history too.)   I shall say no more because, thanks to the generosity of Two Raven’s Press, a rising star on the face of Scottish publishing, I have a copy of Glenfarron to offer as a giveaway.  I can highly recommend it. In fact, I did – here.

Entries are restricted to residents of the UK and Eire – mainly because, as good as the Book Blogger Giveaway was last week, most of those entries were restricted to the USA and Canada.   It’s time to redress the imbalance in a small way. To enter the draw,  simply leave a comment.  You don’t have to have a blog.  Additionally you might tell me if you have read James’s masterpiece and if so, I’d like to know what you decided about the apparitions.

The draw will take place on Sunday 17.11.2008.

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Unfortunately life:work:blogging ratios are so out of kilter at the moment that I can’t even joke about it.  And it’s likely to remain that way for the month of November.  The current blog-deadly combination is major project, tight deadlines!  Book reviews, when they appear, are likely to be short – when leisure time is at a premium, I prefer reading to writing.  When I have the energy that is.

I’m hoping, at a minimum, to keep up with The Sunday Salon.  There will be another post later today with a new giveaway but for now, here are the results of last week’s.  Thanks to the Book Blogger Giveaway, more entrants than ever before.  50 and www.random.org has chosen number 38.

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2008-11-09 08:18:32 UTC

By my reckoning, Clara’s new home is with Marie from Kids, Cats, Books and Chaos.  Please send your details to lizzysiddal@yahoo.com.   I sincerely hope that you come to love Janice Galloway’s Clara as much as I do.

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