BOOK REVIEW: MISERY BY STEPHEN KING

MISERY

GENERAL INFORMATION

TITLE: MISERY

AUTHOR: STEPHEN KING

PAGES: 369

PUBLISHER: NEW ENGLISH LIBRARY

YEAR: 1987

GENRE: SUSPENSE FICTION

COVER TYPE: PAPER BACK

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misery_(novel)

www.stephenking.com

Misery is one of my favourite King novels. I’ve read it at least eight times. The copy I re-read is my third copy of the novel. The other two copies were read to pieces.

Misery was nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1988.

Misery was adapted for the screen in 1990 starring James Caan and Kathy Bates (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misery_(film). I have the DVD. It’s one of my favourite movies and one of the best adaptations of King’s work. Bates is amazing and terrifying.

BLURB FROM THE COVER

Mouth-to-mouth, the woman had forced him back to life, pumping great sickly-sweet gusts of bad breath back into him. Sickly-sweet, she smiled down at him, pushing the painkillers into his dry mouth with her big, work-calloused fingers. Coyly, smiling, she pillow-plumped and nursery-talked and made sure he finished up every last little scrap.

He was a Writer. She was his Number One Fan. She’d pulled him out of the car-wreck, brought him home, splinted and set his mangled legs. All he had to do in return was to write a very special book, just for her, all about her favourite heroine from his novels. One he’d killed off and now had to bring back to life.

Because if he didn’t, if he was Bad and Didn’t Do What Nurse Told Him, she would be cross –very cross – and do things that would make him scream and scream.

EXTRACT

Umber whunnnn

Yernnnn umber whunnnn

Fayunnnn

These sounds even in the haze

 

OVERALL IMPRESSION

 

I think Misery is brilliant. King ticks all the boxes with this one. The characterisation is great. Annie Wilkes is one of the most vivid fictional villains I’ve read about in a long time. Paul Sheldon is also pretty great. King’s writing is flawless. The plot in Misery is far from original but King turns it into something special. There are a few gory scenes that make me cringe but even these moments are compelling and well written. Misery is King at his dizzying best.

REVIEW 

I thought the title Misery fit the novel perfectly. Misery is the name of the recurring heroine in Paul Sheldon’s bestselling novels. Misery is also the name of Annie Wilkes’s pet pig. Misery is also a pretty good way to describe Paul’s state of mind during his imprisonment.

I like the way King structures Misery. It’s split into three sections with multiple chapters per section. The chapters vary in length for a few pages up to twenty pages. The chapters follow on from each other with no page breaks between them. This makes the action in Misery flow quite rapidly. King doesn’t give his readers much time to slow down and pause for breath. King effortlessly inserts backstory into the main narrative in a way that makes it barely noticeable. King uses a third person narrator which I thought worked really well.

The characterisation in Misery is spot on. The two main characters are Annie Wilkes and Paul Sheldon. Annie Wilkes is the villain of the piece. She’s crazy. She’s a nurse and a lot of patients died in her care. She was acquitted but many local people know or suspect she was guilty. King brings her to vivid, unforgettable life. She was so real I expected her to step off the page. Paul Sheldon is also a very well written character. I felt real empathy for him as he was trapped in the house as Annie came apart. Even the minor characters such as the state trooper Annie murders are well-written.

Misery is very well written. King does a great job of demanding his reader’s attention and keeping them hooked. Misery is quite fast paced for a novel. King never bogs his readers down with unnecessary detail. Every word earned a place.

There are some great, gory moments in Misery.  The best moment is when Annie discovers Paul has been out of his room and doing his nosy in the house. She decides to ‘hobble’ him which translates into cutting one of his feet off. This scene made me cringe. In another memorable scene, Annie saws his thumb off with an electric knife when he dares to bitch about the second hand typewriter that keeps losing letters. Towards the end of Misery, Annie’s days are numbered when Paul’s car is found and a state trooper turns up on her doorstep looking for him. Annie stabs him and drives over him with a tractor. One of the best scenes in Misery is when Paul is able to kill Annie. He batters her with typewriters and crams pages of the novel she made him write down her throat. Annie is still alive and flees the house when Paul passes out. Her body is later found by the police, clutching a chainsaw in one hand in the bar. These are key moments in the novel and King executes them very well.

Misery is one of the best novels King has ever written that has nothing to do with the supernatural. Annie is a monster all right – a flesh and blood monster and those are the worst kind. In some ways Misery involves a cat-and-mouse game between Annie and Paul. Annie slips deeper and deeper into psychosis and becomes a danger to herself, Paul and anyone who crosses her path. Paul spends most of his time and energy trying to stay alive and not make her mad so she won’t cut anything else off. I found the plot in Misery very believable and quite frightening. It easy to imagine what would happen if writer or someone famous became a prisoner of their ‘number one fan’ who also happened to be psychotic. I read somewhere King was inspired to write Misery after he was stalked by Lee Harvey Oswald who went on to assassinate JFK. In some way I found Misery even more disturbing because there’s nothing supernatural in it. The plot is plausible and even more unsettling because of this. There probably is a crazy fan a lot like Annie Wilkes out there.

FINAL THOUGHTS 

Misery is one of King’s best novels and a great example of him in his prime. Misery ticks all of the boxes. The plot is not original but King executes it in a very unique way. The characters are all believable and well-written. King’s writing it in top form. Misery is another example of just how great King can be. It’s one of my favourite novels of all time.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

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