Book Review: “The Shining” by Stephen King

“This inhuman place makes human monsters…”

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Mass market paperback (Anchor 2012); first published by Doubleday in 1977. 688 pages.

I’ve decided to slowly make my way through more of Stephen King’s work in addition to whatever other reading I take on. I mean, he is supremely prolific, very influential on countless other writers, AND loves corgis. I recently read 11/22/63 and now own the entire set of The Dark Tower books; I skimmed the first one the day after the bar exam but was just so happy to be looking at something that wasn’t law-related that I raced through it without retaining anything so I’m going to reread it and take on the rest.

But about The Shining. I don’t think that I need to describe the plot in much detail at all, since this is an older and very popular book with a very famous film adaptation. What’s important is that each member of the Torrance family, now veritably stranded at the Overlook Hotel for the Colorado winter as Jack cares for the place, is struggling with their own demons, even, and especially, 5-year-old Danny. But aside from the family’s personal issues the hotel itself has some very dark secrets that are unleashed upon them all.

I made the mistake of thinking that since I’d seen the movie I knew what the book would be like. This really isn’t true at all. Even though there are book ghosts and movie ghosts I feel like much of the supernatural was removed from the film and Jack Torrance’s unraveling in Kubrick’s adaptation was more internally motivated: here is a man who feels like a failure at his career; who struggles with alcoholism; who hates his family… it’s not hard to predict what might happen next. In the book, though, the events unfold more slowly and more horrifyingly because King gives us many, many glimpses into the reality that Jack doesn’t hate his family at all and is struggling within himself to keep the horrors of the hotel and of his true nature from taking over, because he loves them and ultimately does want to keep them safe. The endings also differ and I think the book’s ending is more fitting.

I am giving The Shining 4 stars. I think a lot of King’s strength in writing, from his works that I’ve experienced thus far, comes from character development, and it was possible to feel sympathy for the Torrances even when they probably did not deserve it. Some minor issues for me came from his treatment of Danny on occasion. It is understood that Danny is special and has “the shine,” a type of psychic gift, but I felt like some of his thoughts and the way he spoke were just far too mature to be believable for a 5-year-old. Also, maybe I am just getting desensitized but I felt that this book was more eerie and creepy than outright horrific; the scenes that were violent did not really faze me too much and for me it was the buildup that was truly terrifying. I want to watch the movie again now and also plan to soon read the long-awaited sequel, Doctor Sleep.

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: “The Shining” by Stephen King

    • Yes! I think it came out a few years ago. In my old apartment people could leave books they didn’t want any more for other people to pick up, so I got it, and that’s what motivated me to go back to this one.

      I was actually really surprised that after finishing this last night, I slept fine. I thought I’d be MUCH more scared!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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