Growing up I watched a number of Stephen King films that I had no idea were adapted from his books. My favorite was always Stand By Me. I still remember watching the scene with the leeches and being delightfully freaked out and disgusted by it. I was enthralled.
In high school was when I first started reading King and the first book of course had to be Pet Semetary because I longed to give myself nightmares. When I finally made myself to The Shining I was hooked and right at the first page, I fell in love with that mad, psychotic, haunting book. It is one if not my favorite King novel and I’ve read a lot of them.
I’m sure most of you know the basic plot of it if not from the book but from the movie. But you know how this goes and I’m going to break it down for you anyway.
Taking a job as a caretaker during the off season at the Overlook Hotel is just what Jack Torrance needs to get back on his feet. He was recently let go from his job, longs to reconnect with his family, and has a play he wants to finish writing. The Overlook is set high in the mountains in Colorado and the family will virtually be cut off from all human contact when the snow sets in. The family needs this but terrible things have happened at The Overlook and terrible things are beginning to stir and the only one who has noticed is the Torrances’ son, Danny, who has a unique gift. The hotel is gathering all of its power and past ghosts to get what it wants. And what it wants is Danny and his unique gift of shine.
This is a heavy read as King’s books usually are. His characters are so complez and lifelike they jump off the pages. They’re not exactly likable. Especially Jack. I’m going to say it now. Fuck Jack. Fuck him always and forever. I know he has his issues and his demons but man, these might be minor spoilers but it’s literally chapter one in the book. He broke his THREE YEAR OLD SON’S ARM. FOR SPILLING BEER ON HIS PLAY. Like, I don’t give a shit. That is a baby. YOUR BABY. A BABY. That’s monstrous. Yes, he comes from a cycle of abuse and alcoholism but jesus christ man.
Wendy…sigh. It’s very complex with her. I just wanted her to leave him from the very beginning. Leave, leave, LEAVE. There is a point where you have to realize that your marriage is irreparable and yeah, you’ve reached it.
Danny. Such an amazing astute soul. Wendy was right. They didn’t deserve him. He was an amazing little kid and his interactions especially with Dick Halloran were great.
The Overlook is the kind of evil that has manifested over time and a miasma has formed that’s so thick that it sucks the energy of anybody that has any mental or psychic ability. This is where Danny comes into play. But Danny is stronger than anybody else it has come into contact with. A 5 year old boy, imagine that.
The writing is typical King style. Maddening gibberish, snatches of literature such as Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death. The climax is insane and the ghosts are intense and scary. Don’t go into room 217, dear god. Please don’t.
I think the scariest part of this book besides the ghosts is Jack’s slow and creeping descent into madness. You see it coming and you see him try to stop it but in the end it’s too much for him and he succumbs to his demons and they devour him whole. Perhaps this is the fate of the other host of spirits at the Overlook, it simply became too much and they gave in. The lore to me is so fascinating honestly.
Re-reading this has only energized my King fix and I think I will go back and read some of my old faves. This is definitely a good fall read but it’s ESPECIALLY good for the winter. Snowed in. Especially if you’re in a creepy hotel room. Just make sure your room’s not by the elevator.
“and the red death held sway over all”