Review: The Shining by Stephen King

The Shining by Stephen King

img_3037 Reading The Shining was technically a re-read for me. I first read this book when I was around the age of 16 or 17 and since it’s been likely close to 20 years since I’ve read this awesome book…I figured it was due to be read again. This is, by far, the creepiest, best written horror story of all time! The iconic scene/conversation from the TV show Friends perfectly sums up how I feel:

Rachel: Hmm. (she opens the freezer) Umm, why do you have a copy of The Shining in your freezer?

Joey: Oh, I was reading it last night, and I got scared, so.

Rachel: But ah, you’re safe from it if it’s in the freezer?

Joey: Well, safer. Y’know, I mean I never start reading The Shining, without making sure we’ve got plenty of room in the freezer, y’know.

Rachel: How often do you read it?

Joey: Haven’t you ever read the same book over and over again?

Rachel: Well, umm, I guess I read Little Women more than once. But I mean that’s a classic, what’s so great about The Shining?

Joey: The question should be Rach, what is not so great about The Shining. Okay? And the answer would be: nothing. All right? This is like the scariest book ever. I bet it’s way better than that classic of yours.”

The Shining epitomizes everything that I love about Stephen King and his masterful storytelling. It’s the type of book, that even though I knew what was coming and how the story ended…it still made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It gave me all of the same fantastically terrified, anxious and excited feels I remember from years ago.

I think, at this point, most people know what The Shining is about…but if not, here you go: Jack and Wendy Torrence are having a rough go at their marriage and life in general lately. Jack is a recovering alcoholic and aspiring writer who is still struggling with some anger and temper issues. When he is fired from his teaching position for physically assaulting a student…the family, including their 5 year old son, Danny, are put in a pretty tight financial situation. Out of desperation, Jack accepts a job, through an old drinking buddy, as the winter caretaker of The Overlook Hotel in Colorado. Almost immediately, young Danny is apprehensive about the ominous hotel due to visions he’s been having from his “imaginary” friend, Tony. You see….Danny is a special boy with very special powers. According to Dick Hallorann, the head cook at The Overlook Hotel, Danny shines. His shining ability is what makes him able to know other peoples’ thoughts & feelings, have visions of the future, and see things that others cannot. As winter takes hold up in the Rocky Mountains,  the Torrence family are completely snowed in and trapped for the season inside the vast hotel. And that’s when Danny’s visions grow out of control and The Overlook itself seems to develop a life all it’s own.

“It gave Jack a curious shrinking feeling, as if his life force had dwindled to a mere spark while the hotel and grounds had suddenly doubled in size and become sinister, dwarfing them with sullen, inanimate power.”

img_3060I think most people who haven’t read The Shining have seen the movie.  Stephen King has been very vocal about his disdain for Stanley Kubrick’s interpretation of his story … in a Rolling Stone article King says:

“The book is hot, and the movie is cold; the book ends in fire, and the movie in ice. In the book, there’s an actual arc where you see this guy, Jack Torrance, trying to be good, and little by little he moves over to this place where he’s crazy. And as far as I was concerned, when I saw the movie, Jack was crazy from the first scene. I had to keep my mouth shut at the time. It was a screening, and Nicholson was there. But I’m thinking to myself the minute he’s on the screen, ‘Oh, I know this guy. I’ve seen him in five motorcycle movies, where Jack Nicholson played the same part.’ And it’s so misogynistic. I mean, Wendy Torrance is just presented as this sort of screaming dishrag. But that’s just me, that’s the way I am.”

While I personally disagree with King’s opinion of Kubrick’s choice of using Jack Nicholson to play Jack Torrence, I totally understand where he’s coming from with the character portrayal. I  think that Jack Nicholson was the perfect actor to play Jack Torrence…but yes….you miss quite a bit of the slow and steady mental decline of Jack Torrence in the movie…he does come off as on the slightly crazy from the get go.  In the book, it’s so much easier to sympathize and even understand Jack Torrence and where he is coming from and how hard he is struggling with his demons and trying to be the husband and father he wants to be. The very slow and steady beginnings of his mental decline that suddenly catapults into a full fledged quick and drastic downward spiral is part of what makes this novel so genius, creepy and terrific. There are quite a few other major differences between Kubrick’s movie version and this novel….some minor but some quite major.

So even if you’ve seen and love the movie….I highly recommend that you absolutely read this book. It’s definitely different so you have to go into it without expecting every iconic scene from the movie to be in the book…because quite a few are just not there in the original story. But this novel is fantastic and re-reading it has completely solidified it as one of my top  5 all time favorite books! And then after you read The Shining, you definitely have to read King’s sequel Doctor Sleep…it’s every bit as amazing and scary. Happy reading!

My Rating: 5/5 Stars



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