Children – Don’t trust them. Especially the cute ones.
But the person doing most of the spoiling is the author at the end! Henry James, what were you thinking?
I’m still in my current fad of spookiness, and I enjoyed The Turn of the Screw. It’s about a governess in a haunted house, two dead members of staff terrorising the two small children called Miles and Flora, odd faces at windows and candles blowing out, it had everything I could want. There is also Mrs Grose, the salt-of-the-earth servant who is seems runs the house and cared for the children since their old governess’ death, and a homely sort who probably says ‘lummocks’ and such. The children are also great, appearing angelic but as we know in real life, angelic children are often hiding something and it’s not long before these two show their disturbing ‘Village of the Damned’ ways, especially the little girl, who is a plotting, manipulative, evil genius.
The ending is a crescendo of action at which the governess finds a way to exorcise the evil from the house and her charges, but all the trauma of it causes the little ten year old boy to die in his governesses arms in the last sentence. Nooooooo! I will not tolerate children dying in the last line, especially children who have no obvious cause of death. It’s not so bad when it’s someone like Little Nell, annoying and destined to cough her melodramatic, syrupy last from the outset, but Miles was a young fit boy, dammit!
This is from the BBC adaptation that that I’m now tempted to watch, featuring her off Downton and some freaky-looking kids. I wouldn’t turn your back on them if I were you, love!
Also, Henry James appears to know very little about children. Flora is supposed to be eight but her initial actions seem to make her no more than three, as when the governess meets her she is just sweet and smiles a lot, and she is also in a high chair with a bib, eating bread and milk. Imagine trying to lift an eight year old into a high chair?! I know kids were smaller back then, but honestly, you could really hurt your back. If she were an eight year old in a Dickens novel he’d have her working in a boot blacking factory or feeding fruitcake to escaped prisoners. Although, on the other hand he’d have never let a ten year old boy die in one sentence, there would have been a couple of chapters where the reader had to wade thigh-deep in the black mud of death before finally the child died. At least James spared us that, but I’m still angry and he’s not forgiven. It also seems the book cover designers were also at a loss of what constitutes and eight year old girl. My edition is the Oxford one in the top row with the little girl’s babyish face, which I suppose is better than the bottom row, where the governess either has a huge head compared to the child, or the one where she looks a bit tired. Or drunk. Or both.