Monday, June 22, 2015
Misery by Stephen King
Published May 1990 by Penguin Group
Source: this one is mine
Overview Paul Sheldon. He’s a bestselling novelist who has finally met his biggest fan. Her name is Annie Wilkes and she is more than a rabid reader—she is Paul’s nurse, tending his shattered body after an automobile accident. But she is also his captor, keeping him prisoner in her isolated house.
Now Annie wants Paul to write his greatest work—just for her. She has a lot of ways to spur him on. One is a needle. Another is an ax. And if they don’t work, she can get really nasty.
Well, it was summer and clearly summer is the time for a Stephen King readalong so I couldn't resist when Care of Care's Online Book Club rallied the King Readalongers. Here's the thing with Stephen King - he can be very grisly and gruesome but he really is quite a good writer so I always know that it will be worth my time to join the gang.
I often say that I don't read horror books or watch horror movies because there is enough to be afraid of in the real world and I don't need any new ways to be frightened. There are all kinds of things to be afraid of in the world but in Misery King comes back to the idea that one individual can be the scariest thing. In Misery, Uncle Stevie hasn't given me a new thing to be afraid of; instead, he has hit on exactly the thing that I fear the most - people who are utterly lacking in a moral compass. The paranoids, the self-absorbed who care only about getting what they want regardless of the cost to others. That would be Annie Wilkes. She gives credence to the argument that some people are just born evil. Seriously, she is one screwed up lady who is undoubtedly mentally ill but, folks, this business with Paul is not her first trip to the rodeo.
Is it a stretch, sometimes, to buy into the idea that Paul could disappear for months and have left so little trail that no one even has idea where to start. Maybe. Is it a stretch to believer that Annie could have done what she's done in the past and still be free to go about her business? Maybe. But by the time that you might start to think "really???", it's too late. You are too sucked into needing to find out just how deranged Annie will get and whether or not Paul will survive. And, oh, how King plays with his readers, showing sympathetic glimpses of Annie and making Paul a rather unlikeable man it can be hard to care for.
In the end, although there's more than enough violence, Misery is a mind game. Can Paul keep his sanity long enough to free himself? Can he manage to outwit Annie or even figure her out well enough to keep her on an even keel? How, exactly, does she envision this playing out in her mind? I could have done with less gore but I do appreciate a psychological thriller and a book that makes me afraid to keep reading. On that score, King succeeds.