Review: The Shining (The Shining Book 1 of 2)

The Shining - Stephen King

I had read this book once before when I was much younger. I think I was probably around 12, so that would be about 27 years ago. I didn’t remember much about it beyond some of the more dramatic scenes and the fact that I had really enjoyed it. When I found out a sequel had been published, I started to think about re-reading this book and then reading the sequel.

 

In case anybody’s unfamiliar with this book, or remembers as little about it as I did, here’s some basic spoiler-free info. The story centers on a family that includes a five year old boy, Danny, and his mother and father. Danny has psychic abilities -- he’s able to read other people’s feelings and sometimes he picks up stray thoughts. With some extra effort, he can read thoughts in greater detail and sometimes he also has visions of the future. His father, Jack, is a recovering alcoholic with a bad temper. His mother, Wendy, is a stay-at-home mom with limited work experience. They’re in bad financial shape, but Jack is hired to serve as the caretaker at a hotel in the mountains of Colorado over the winter. The hotel doesn’t operate during the winter because, after the heavy snows start, the hotel is cut off from the nearest town for months. This means that Jack and his family will be living in the hotel alone, cut off from civilization for most of the winter. It’s an old hotel, and a lot of bad things have happened there in the past. Given that this is a horror story, you can probably guess the turn the story takes after the family moves in.

 

I really enjoyed re-reading this book, but it wasn’t as creepy as I’d remembered. It got a little intense toward the end but I never reached the point where I felt scared, or started peering suspiciously into shadows, or anything like that. I guess the creepier parts were also the parts I remembered better, so that probably reduced their impact. The story wasn’t completely without suspense for me, though. I actually couldn’t remember for sure who lived and who died by the end of the book so I was able to root for the characters all over again.

 

The story held my interest well. My work schedule for the past week and a half has been brutal. If the book hadn’t been interesting, I wouldn’t have gotten very far with it because most of my reading time has been limited to bedtime. When I picked the book up at the end of each day, I was certain I wouldn’t be able to keep my eyes open long enough to read a single page. Then, the next thing I knew, I was a few chapters further into the book and I wasn’t feeling that sleepy anymore. I usually had to force myself to put the book down so I could get a decent night’s sleep. So, if this review doesn’t make any sense, blame sleep deprivation. :)

 

The book had quite a bit more meat to it than I remembered, and I enjoyed the back story about the characters. I really hadn’t remembered anything about the characters beyond the fact that Danny was psychic and the father, Jack, was an alcoholic. I liked Danny, but I really didn’t like either of his parents. Although Jack was the one who caused most of the family’s problems with his alcoholism and anger issues, and I didn’t like him very much, his mother also frustrated me quite a bit. She didn’t take any initiative to improve the situation for her and her son either and she was very dependent. In her mind, her only options were to stay with her irresponsible and dangerous husband or move in with her hateful mother. Standing on her own two feet never seemed to occur to her.

 

In fairness, the book was written in 1977. It was probably a lot harder and less common for a mother to support herself and her children on her own in 1977 as compared to today when women have more career opportunities and are usually expected to work. Not that I think it’s easy today, but it’s surely more feasible. Her lack of independence and initiative, especially given her worry for her son, still annoyed me though. So I kept mentally arguing with the parents while I read the story! I liked the boy quite a bit better. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel.