A Modern Adaptation of a Gothic Classic | The Turning by Francine Prose

I am a slow reader. I mean, a slooooooooooow reader. I am also a distracted reader, so the fact that I even maintain a book blog is kind of a feat. Truly! I read about how other bloggers devour entire libraries in a year, and in five years, I could count the number of books I’ve read in a single day on one hand (The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson, the Wrap-up List by Steven Arnston, Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern, Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls by Victoria Laurie). Well, I’m happy to say, I have one more book to add to this list. Er…sort of happy, anyway.


the-turning-coverThe Turning by Francine Prose

Released: September 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen
★★☆☆☆
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Jack is spending the summer on a private island far from modern conveniences. No Wi-Fi, no cell service, no one else on the island but a housekeeper and the two very peculiar children in his care. The first time Jack sees the huge black mansion atop a windswept hill, he senses something cold, something more sinister than even the dark house itself.

Soon, he feels terribly isolated and alone. Yet he is not alone. The house has visitors—peering in the windows, staring from across the shore. But why doesn’t anyone else see them . . . and what do they want? As secrets are revealed and darker truths surface, Jack desperately struggles to maintain a grip on reality. He knows what he sees, and he isn’t crazy. . . . Or is he?

From nationally acclaimed author Francine Prose comes a mind-bending story that will leave you realizing how subtle the lines that separate reality, imagination, and insanity really are.


The first thing you should know about the Turning by Francine Prose is that it is an adaptation of the gothic novella, The Turning of the Screw by Henry James (this was assigned reading in high school, but of course I read Sparknotes instead). The second thing you should know is The Turning is an epistolary novel told through an exchange of letters between Jack and his girlfriend. The third thing you should know is the Turning has an absolutely promising first half…and then it all falls apart (sort of like Jack’s sanity).

What makes the first half of the novel so intriguing is the low-key creepy factor. Like the fact that Jack can’t shake the feeling that he’s being watched. Or the children, whose behavior is just ever slightly abnormal, hid a photograph of the last baby sitter with her face scratched out, and this somehow makes the children scarier than Regan from The Exorcist. Or the feeling that their other caretaker isn’t being 100% honest about the island, the house, or the children.

Eventually, the isolation of the island starts to drive Jack mad though. He becomes paranoid and accuses his girlfriend of cheating on him, which is annoying. Then he starts seeing the ghost of a young woman, and he falls in love with her. Aside from his madness being too over the top for me, I just didn’t buy into it. I mean, the story takes place in 21st century America, so that kind of isolation is far-fetched.

Still, I managed to read this book in one sitting, so I feel like that says something, right? Or else it just means that 250 pages is just short enough that even a distracted reader like me can make it to the ending.

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One thought on “A Modern Adaptation of a Gothic Classic | The Turning by Francine Prose

  1. Aw man, I am sorry that this didn’t work out better for you! BUT, good news on getting a book read in one day! I can’t ever do that, it seems. Though in this case, it is extra good because you didn’t waste more time on it! I hate when it seems wayyy too farfetched- takes me out of the book completely. Hope you have better luck with your next book, great review!

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