I often embrace the notion of writing being superior than plot to the extent of salvaging a lackluster body of the latter, very close to my heart. And it is stories like these that realign my reading meter in that direction.
Henry James’ story has no flaws per se; instead, has a pollen bearing promise to turn into a full feather. A series of apparition that haunts the governess of a house, driving her to cast her net of suspicion across all the residents, primarily the children, makes for a premise worth pursuing towards an exciting journey. But its blooming is excruciatingly contricted amid the very many winding, endless sentences, almost binding the book like a curse. I am not troubled by such literary joints, especially when they coalesce to elevate the meaning to the surface, if not make it clear to the reader. But I found myself, repeatedly in the midst of verbose blah-blahs that did nothing to advance the story; worse, stalled the little progress it had already done in first few pages.
I found my concentration wavering many times despite assuring the book a tranquil, conducive atmosphere and as a result, would have perhaps seen it nose-dive towards a me-too affair had it not been the climax which retrieved the verve to some extent. There were patches which were brilliant and like sparks, contained my reading experience from not being a total black-out.
I call it a revolution because I now see how, with the word he spoke, the curtain rose on the last act of my dreadful drama and the catastrophe was precipitated. “Look here, my dear, you know,” he charmingly said, “when in the world, please, am I going back to school?”
Transcribed here the speech sounds harmless enough, particularly as uttered in the sweet, high, casual pipe with which, at all interlocutors, but above all at his eternal governess, he threw off intonations as if he were tossing roses.
Characters are drawn with a stable, neutral hand implying I could make the solid outlines of the characters swaying and levitating but wasn’t compelled to stop them and ask them more of what was not visible on the surface. They won my attention but not my involvement.
[Image courtesy spectator.co.uk]