The Shining by Stephen King | Book Review

The Shining book cover

I was in the mood for something scary and The Shining had been sitting on my bookshelf for almost a year waiting to be read. I’ve never seen the movie, so although I knew the basic premise I didn’t have much else to go off and wasn’t wholly convinced that it would actually scare me. But it didn’t disappoint. It definitely gave me the heebie jeebies.

I’m pretty sure you all know the premise of The Shining, right? The Torrance family goes to stay in a remote hotel in the Colorado mountains to act as caretakers during the winter season. Jack, the father, has a history of alcoholism and violent outbursts, Mum Wendy is a bit of wet fish who is perpetually worried about everything, and five-year-old Danny has ‘the shine’ – a psychic ability to read thoughts, communicate telepathically and see both the past and the future. The ghosts of the hotel proceed to fuck them all up. Simple, really.

But then again, it isn’t. The ghosts are certainly doing their part to drive Jack to insanity, but Jack himself – his history and his memories – play into his increasingly frightening behaviour. I think this is why The Shining is such a powerful horror story, because the horror emerges not only from ghosts and fantastical spooky things, but from the very real traits of humanity. The whole way through I was never quite sure what Jack was imagining and what he was really seeing. The lines between his true thoughts and the twisted thoughts forced upon him by the hotel’s ghosts are blurred. This makes him all the more unpredictable and terrifying.

One little complaint I have is that it’s a pretty slow burner. The exposition plods along with a hell of a lot of King’s trademark waffling about the characters’ backstories. However, I can forgive him for it. All the titbits provided in the rambling opening chapters come into play later and help us to understand how the characters behave the way they do when all the scary shit goes down.

I won’t ramble on too much about this book because there are probably thousands upon thousands of other reviews across the internet which offer far more intelligent analyses than I ever could. Basically, I loved it. It made me realise that I need more horror books in my life. And now I need to watch the film.

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8 thoughts on “The Shining by Stephen King | Book Review

  1. Stephen King is definitely the master of horror. I remember reading ‘Pet Sematary’ while staying in a remote cottage in France. I was absolutely terrified. Don’t have nightmares!

  2. I picked an old hardback of The Shining at a used bookstore years ago and enjoyed it, though admittedly I liked the movie more. Recently I was gathering some old books together to try to sell at the local bookstore. I picked up my old copy of The Shining, looked inside, and saw that it was a first edition. I decided to keep it.

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