Monday, September 9, 2013

A "shining" review

In preparation, or rather anticipation for the upcoming novel by Stephen King called Doctor Sleep (September 24, 2013) I decided it was finally time to read The Shining.  I have grown up knowing who Stephen King is. He was a guy who wrote scary, horror stories that turned into scary, horror movies on T.V. or the big screen that I was not allowed to watch, yet.  I watched the Stanley Kubrick version of The Shining in college and was scared out of my mind while my boyfriend was sitting next to me in awe of Kubrick’s filmmaking abilities.  Over the years I have picked up a few of King’s works like The Stand and part of The Dark Tower series but I never picked up some of his scarier books.

Earlier this year I heard murmurings that Stephen King was writing a sequel to The Shining and was immediately intrigued. What makes an author go back to story after thirty-five years? Especially, an author who tends to only write stand-alone novels? Since I drive a lot for work, I decided to listen to The Shining and I was not disappointed. First of all, the story was written very well. We do not only get the perspective of one character, but all four of the main characters. I really liked this change in perspective because each character had a story to tell and all of their voices were necessary to complete the picture.  

We see young Danny Torrence who is trying to understand the thoughts he hears from others, most notably his parents and make sense of the world, which is hard for any five year old. We hear Wendy’s inner thoughts about her controlling mother, her fears about her son and her jealously over her husband and son’s close relationship. Jack Torrence, the man who eventually gets consumed by the hotel, is one of the most tragic characters I have read. We learn about growing up in a household with an abusive father, his struggle with alcoholism and every other event that led him to take this caretaker job. You are angry at him but also sympathetic. We even get the inner thoughts of Dick Halloran, the Overlook’s Chef, who “sees” Danny right away and explains “the shine” to him.  All of the feelings of these characters are explained in such a realistic way that these are not just characters in a book they are people you know or perhaps thoughts you have had yourself.

I listened to this story on audiobook instead of reading it and Campbell Scott did a superb job. He did not make a lot of changes in his voice when speaking when changing characters but when the hotel starts to get a hold of Jack you can hear it.  The good thing about listening to the story is that you do not miss a detail. The book is a little over-descriptive at times and some of the inner monologues become a little repetitive but overall the flow of the story worked well and transferred to audio format successfully.

I decided to watch the movie again as I was reading the book and the contrasts were startling. My boyfriend from college turned into my husband and he was still amazed at the cinematography. We both loved how the camera just followed little Danny and his tricycle (power-wheels!) around and around the hotel. I was of course, still scared out of my mind and angry at the many changed Kubrick made. There is no slow change that comes over Jack, he looks crazed from the beginning. At the beginning of the novel the family of three seems to have fun. They go to town a few times and during the first snow they sled together. There are random strange incidents that happen to give a sense of foreboding and you get the feeling that each family member is wary of their surroundings and has a bad feeling about the place but with nowhere else to go they are stuck, until literally they are stuck under feet of snow. In the movie,  Jack Nicholson did a great job and that look in one of the early scenes he gives his wife and child outside playing in the snow will haunt my nightmares for a long time. But he seems condescending and snide with his wife and child from the start and it is no surprise that he goes crazy and tries to kill them after a few months with them.  There could be a book written on the differences so I won’t go further but the change in the character of Jack was one of the biggest disappointments for me.

I cannot wait to read Doctor Sleep. If I can wait long enough and if Campbell Scott will read it to me I might wait for the audiobook. For such a terrifying book, I think I will need listen to it in the daytime, with the light shining down on me.

Rating 5/5 stars

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