Book Review: Misery by Stephen King

Published: June 8, 1987.

“A dark & disturbing story. Great read.”

fourstars

What Is ‘Misery’ About?

Misery Chastain was dead. Paul Sheldon had just killed her – with relief, with joy. Misery had made him rich; she was the heroine of a string of bestsellers. And now he wanted to get on to some real writing.
That’s when the car accident happened, and he woke up in pain in a strange bed. But it wasn’t the hospital. Annie Wilkes had pulled him from the wreck, brought him to her remote mountain home, splinted and set his mangled legs.
The good news was that Annie was a nurse and has pain-killing drugs. The bad news was that she was Paul’s Number One Fan. And when she found out what Paul had done to Misery, she didn’t like it. She didn’t like it at all. And now he had to bring Misery back to life. Or else . . .

Why Did I Read ‘Misery’?

A little while ago I read On Writing (A Memoir Of The Craft) by Stephen King and really enjoyed the experience. It taught me a lot about King’s recommended writing process and reminded me just how long it had been since I’d read one of his novels. So, out of respect to his book I made a note to read one of King’s novels the next opportunity I got.
‘Misery’ always interested me. It seemed like such a great character study and the perfect blueprint to a suspenseful page turner.

What I Liked About ‘Misery’

King starts the novel with a terrific metaphor; describing a rotten pylon submerged under the tide to represent Paul Sheldon’s legs and the suffering he would go through when the pylon was exposed (and the painkillers wore off). It’s a clever way of describing agony, whilst not having to come up with new ways of explaining pain time and time again.
Something tells me that if ‘Misery’ was written this year by another author rather than King, they would have almost certainly written it in the first person, rather than third person. That just seems to be the trend these days, but I think something would have been lost switching to a sole perspective. King manages to balance the inner monologue of Paul, whilst also giving you more about Annie and building a haunting atmosphere.
There’s a brilliant section in ‘Misery’ where Paul escapes from his room for the first time. Really suspenseful, very well written.
There’s also a fantastic section in ‘Misery’ where it talks briefly about the Jews in Germany leading up to the holocaust and how the question had been asked ‘Why didn’t the Jews leave when they saw what was happening?’ The response was very powerful: a lot of the Jews had pianos, and you don’t think about leaving when you’re playing a piano. That was their solitude, that was their resting place. It was a brilliant metaphor for writing, the typewriter was Paul Sheldon’s piano, the book he was writing was his music. He was focusing on his book and not on what was coming.

What I Didn’t Like About ‘Misery’

When thinking of the length of ‘Misery’ I can’t help but feel that there are large chunks which could have been removed without it effecting the story. I maybe missing the point, perhaps it’s commendable that he dug so deep with such as simple concept, but for me it felt unnecessarily long in parts.
Spoiler warning… There’s a section in the story where Paul, whilst sneaking around the house, stumbles across a book containing a back story of newspaper cuttings involving the people that have died suspiciously under the care of Annie whilst she was a nurse. For me, this changed everything. I preferred to think of Annie as being an unstable, crazy woman who had come across Paul and was struggling to deal with him in her life, instead she was now a serial killer who had experience killing people and getting away with it?!

Good Or Bad?

Was it any good? Yes. A little dated perhaps, but a great read – and a good example of two characters who are at wills against one another.
Would I recommend it? Maybe. This book is a little disturbing in parts, it would depend on the reader and what they’re into.
Would I read it again? I can’t lie, I was relieved to finish ‘Misery’. It took longer to read than I had anticipated and was a dark & disturbing story. Nice one to tick off, but I won’t be reading it again.



Here are some other reviews:
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
Not That Kind Of Girl by Lena Dunham
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
On Writing (A Memoir Of The Craft) by Stephen King
The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins
The Big Short by Michael Lewis

What’s on the list?
The Lafayette Campaign by Andrew Updegrove
Ask The Dust by John Fante
The Hidden Legacy by GJ Minett
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan


Any suggestions?


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David P. Philip


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