The Shining by Stephen King

Jeeze, Louise does that book cover creep you out or what?! Something about children with menacing eyebrows and a soul-less gaze. That being said, the cover struck me as far more horrifying than the actual novel did. For a while.I’m going to assume that, while most of you reading have probably seen/heard about the movie, but maybe aren’t as familiar with the actual book itself. I’m assuming this because that’s was exactly my scenario.

This book takes some growing in to. Yeah, there are hints of hints to creepy things from the very beginning. Things that don’t feel right. An alluded to but not explained violent incident between Jack Torrence and an unknown student. An unstable narrator and a kid capable of some rather odd things. However, this book takes a good dozen chapters to really get off the ground. To get me to the point that I was chewing my thumbnail to the quick with all the lights on…at 4:00 in the afternoon. The Shining is about, first and foremost, a hotel. And, as all hotels do, this one has it’s share of ghosts and secrets (literally). The Overlook hotel sits on a secluded mountainside outside Sidewinder, Colorado. It’s snowed in from November to March, and it’s care falls to one person – the caretaker. Who, in this case, is Jack Torrence, a writer and recently-fired (recently-sober) teacher, along with his wife Wendy and their precocious (and creepy) son Danny. Danny has a power called ‘the shining’ and it allows him, basically, to read minds, sense feelings, and see what will (or has) happened. Needless to say, with a power like this The Overlook causes both Jack and Danny their fair share of torments as they deal with their own sins, ghosts, regrets, and nightmares – in addition to all the crazy stuff (corpses in bathtubs? a party that occurs every night at midnight? constant allusions to Poe’s short story “Masque of the Red Death”) that the hotel has to throw at them. The ending of the book is far, far different from the movie. The book gives us, at the very last minute, the chance to feel sorry for Jack, who by the end of the book is so crazy he begins to hunt down his wife and child. We’re shown that this man isn’t Jack, but instead is the hotel inside Jack, acting out its viscous desires through a broken man. It’s a rather wonderful turn in the writing, and wonderfully exemplifies the greatest part about reading a Stephen King book.

One of the things I so adored about this book is that it gave us the ability to loathe, fear, and deny the power of a hotel. I think it’s a genus move of King’s to get us feeling this way about an inanimate object. It plays wonderfully in to the idea that the places humans live, the places we vacation and own and visit, absorb a part of us. That we make memories for it as well as in it. For this reason, I felt that The Overlook provided the perfect medium for understanding some of how a ghost can get left behind in a place. Secondly, the hotel just sounded so damn creepy! Not to mention the fact that The Overlook is actually based on a real place – the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, which is also supposedly one of the most haunted hotels in America:

how scary would it be to be trapped up in that all day, all night, with the same people for six whole months. No phone, no TV, no anything. It’s terrifying, and King let’s us know it.

That is the second thing I loved most about this particular work of King’s. Unlike a lot of other novels that King has written, which feature all sorts of haunted objects and places and the like, what makes The Shining stand out so much is that it’ s the book that’s the scariest – because it’s about what’s in you. The ghosts that you, as an individual, have, and how those can play on the mind and the soul and drive one to madness. Yes, the hotel is really the villain in this story. But the hotel wouldn’t be able to become so without obvious flaws in Jack’s personality – or certain traits of Danny’s skill. It’s not about monsters and things external. And that’s the bat-shit scariest part of all. I’d say the movie is still wonderful, but if you want something that will really stick to your bones – in a chilling way, definitely go for the book!

In closing news, I’m so glad it’s Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and although I’m not sure yet who I’ll vote for, I’m definitely enjoying all the wonderful blog-love floating around out there! I also was able to make another trip to my library yesterday, so brace yourself for some great knitting-themed library loot coming your way sometime this week. The temperatures around here spiked back up in to the 100s again today, so I’m not exactly digging this last burst of Indian Summer, but before too long the temps should be dropping and that’ll make all these creepy reads for Carl’s R.I.P. Challenge that much better. Happy reading!


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Andi
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 13:24:13

    I read this a long time ago, and it’s one I would definitely re-read now. I can also tell you that the mini-series that was made is far more faithful to the book than the Kubrick film. I enjoyed both, but it was nice to see more of the book play out on screen.


  2. Priya
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 17:39:18

    Great review! The Shining was my first Stephen King novel and I absolutely loved it (still do!) I agree with you; one of the best things about the novel is that it is less about ‘actual’ evil and more about our ‘inner’ evils. I know a lot of people were disappointed with the not-so-scary Jack Torrance of the book; then again, there are people like me who read the book first and hate the too obviously cruel Jack Torrance in the movie. I always liked the (book) character of Torrance because he himself is sort of a victim.


  3. Kailana
    Sep 14, 2011 @ 23:24:19

    I haven’t read this particular book by Stephen King before. One of these days I need to branch out a bit and read more from him. I have really just read a few short stories and The Green Mile. Anything else I have started by him I haven’t really finished.


  4. nerdybookgirl (@nerdybookgirl)
    Sep 15, 2011 @ 01:19:54

    Great Review! I really want to read this book, but I’m afraid it might be too scary.


    • Chelsea
      Sep 15, 2011 @ 16:57:09

      No! Don’t think that! The book is, of course, very very scary, but it’s in a subtle way! No *jump out and grab you* moments, more psychological thriller style.


  5. Elizabeth
    Sep 15, 2011 @ 15:11:05

    Wonderful review. I just might have to try the book sometime although I haven’t been able to watch the movie but once. Those girls were just too creepy!


    • Chelsea
      Sep 15, 2011 @ 16:58:00

      I totally know what you mean! There is something about children that lets them be SO, SO SCARY!!! But don’t worry – the little girls aren’t really in the book. I mean, they’re mentioned, but they don’t really play a part, so I definitely think you should give the book a try!


  6. bookworm
    Sep 17, 2011 @ 16:40:43

    Great review 🙂 Im a big fan of King’s and this is one of my favorites of his. He did a great job at The Overlook itself sort of a character in the story. It was very creepy. And I agree, he made the story about the ghosts within people as well. I found the way Jack slowly goes insane to be the scariest part.


  7. trish
    Sep 19, 2011 @ 01:02:53

    Yeah . . . the creepy cover! I loved this book as a teenager. I think it’s long overdue for a reread.


  8. wolfshowl
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 18:14:47

    The Shining is the one King book where I saw the movie first. I’ve so far resisted reading the book because I’m worried it will remove all of my love for the movie. His other books all make the movies pale in comparison, you know?


  9. Kate
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 11:47:09

    I read this so long ago that I can’t even remember what’s the book and what’s the movie when I think about it!

    I love the notion of the place affecting the people, and you’re entirely right in that we create life and memories not just amongst ourselves but in our places. Books that highlight that persistence of memory on place, like this and The Haunting of Hill House, really appeal to me. Thanks for pointing this out.

    Happy reading!


  10. Trackback: The R.I.P. VI Challenge: A Wrap-Up « Book Maven’s Blog

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