This Review Contains Massive Spoilers
This book is creepy as hell, for several different reasons. My skin
crawled on several occasions. At times I had to think about putting it
down and walking away for a while. Given that the edition I was reading
was only 88 pages, that's saying something!
What is mostly the freakiest is what is implied, not said. The
potential for ghosts is all on the top, as is the potential for madness.
What is strongly implied but not ever quite said is the most upsetting.
And anyone who doesn't want to read about or discuss sexual abuse of
children should probably take a break from this one.
that's definitely the implication that's hanging in the air. And the
main character's reaction is possibly the most upsetting thing to me.
Once she comes to these conclusions (rightly or wrongly - it's certainly
what the housekeeper thought was going on, but the children don't
really ever quite do anything that backs it up - the letter from Miles'
school might be indicative and it might not), she vacillates between
seeing the children as poor victims and seeing them as newly evil
creatures that she cannot save.
It is this that I find the most
disturbing, as it's what the book dwells on in the most detail. On
finding two children who might have been abused, her reaction is to
regard them with revulsion and suspicion. At times, anyway. The view
that this now means that they're unutterably corrupted, beyond
redemption, in any way at fault, well, that turned my stomach. We don't
know that that's the way everyone would regard them, but it's certainly
the tack the governess takes. The housekeeper is not nearly so extreme.
this horrific possibility definitely unhinges the governess, whether to
madness or sheer horror, it's hard to tell. What, after all, is the
evidence? She carefully avoids ever broaching the subject to either
child, to asking them about it, to doing anything that would in any way
involve the children or gauge what they are actually thinking or doing.
It's this dehumanization that haunts me far more than the ghosts.
yes, this is an incredibly creepy story, even all these years later. It
makes my skin crawl just remembering it. I don't think I'll be
revisiting the story, but it certainly was effective.