Ida's English Reading Corner

‘Misery’ by Stephen King (1987)

[H]e had seen this look… or, more precisely, this unlook. The word which defined it was catatonia, but what frightened him had no such precise word – it was, rather, a vague comparison: in that moment he thought that her thoughts had become much as he had imagined her physical self: solid, fibrous, unchannelled, with no places of hiatus.

Misery, p. 13

The name of the novel speaks for itself. Misery- that is exactly what Annie Wilkes has in store for her favourite author Paul Sheldon. After surviving a drunken car crash in a blizzard, Annie finds him, takes him home and – as a former nurse – cares for him and his broken legs. But Misery is also the name of the heroine Misery Chastain in Pauls’ best-selling novels centering on Miss Chastains fate. When Annie finds out that Paul has killed her off in his latest novel, Misery’s Child, she is furious, very very furious. So Paul has to write another book, bringing Misery back to life, and by that fueling his own misery.

Stephen King is, in my humble opinion, the true master of horror. He does not use the great big monsters to scare his readers, oh no Sir, he doesn’t. He uses all those everyday-anxieties lurking at the back of our consciousness – whether it is the fear of falling, the fear of failure, darkness, loneliness, terror – or the fear of being at the hands of a mentally ill person and having to oblige to their crazy ideas and notions, not being able to run away but being stuck there. Halfway through the book I had to take some shuddering breaths and remind myself that after all these horrors there still was half of the book left, and that more horror did await. But this is also what I like about King’s writing. He knows exactly how to pass the boundary from a scary story to a horror story that keeps haunting the reader. By going the extra step and creating situations one wouldn’t have dared to think about, he makes all the difference in his story telling. There were many situations in which I thought: “Oh no, this can’t be happening” – and yet it did. I have to admit that I liked the partly incorporation of the new Misery novel Paul was working on while being in Annies’ ‘care’. The comical aspects that can be found in any horror novel by Stephen King, just like the missing letters on the typewriter that had to be painstakingly filled in afterwards, again make all the difference. Because, in my opinion, Kings’ black humour makes the terror seem so much more realistic and sinister.

I was very ill when I read this novel, but ironically it was the only thing that made me forget about my own misery when I had Pauls’ misery. Sounds weird, but isn’t that what books are about? That they take you somewhere else and – in my case – make you see that it could be worse? Anyways, I really enjoyed this read and also really liked the realistic ending, also something I love about Kings’ books.

Truth really isn’t stranger than fiction, no matter what they say.  Most times you know exactly how things are going to turn out.”

Misery, p. 304

 


Author:   Stephen King
Title:       Misery
Press:      New English Library – Hodder and Stoughton
Year of publication: 1987
Pages:      370


 

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