More spoilers than usual because it is so well known.
The Shining by Stephen King is one of his best books because it gets inside the reader’s head and asks difficult questions. These difficult questions are: How much control do I really have over myself? Could I actually hurt the people I love? Does my own temper have any similarities to Jack Torrance’s temper? What would you do for your family and when is it alright to walk away from bad circumstances? There are families and people like this in the world, down our street, and it is a little unsettling.
For me The Shining is a story about an imperfect man that we know everything about. King does an amazing job of building this family and telling us all of their fears. The funny thing is that the reader knows every intimate thought that they have about each other but they barely say anything to each other. Jack and Wendy’s marriage is one of fleeting looks of scorn, fear, and disdain but they never talk about what is going on in their marriage.
Danny, the son, has an ability to see things. He can read people’s emotions, their thoughts, see people that have died from violence, and project his thoughts to others. It is called the shining and it plays a much larger role in the book than it did in the movie. We get detailed accounts of what Danny sees and how he sees it. That last part is important because the how makes the book much more believable. He is a little kid trapped in a bad marriage and just desperately wants his parents to love each other and him.
The Overlook hotel, is where the main story takes place, as Jack becomes the caretaker of a large hotel for the winter. The hotel is cut off by snow during the winter months and someone has to stay up there to watch it all winter. The Overlook has a sordid past where murders and notorious people used to stay. Jack finding out all this information, and in turn the reader, is one of my favorite parts of the entire book. Through this information the hotel itself becomes a character because we learn all of its dark secrets just like we did the family.
The hotel starts to effect the family, Jack starts to become unraveled, his temper becoming worse, and Danny begins to see ghastly images, and disturbing occurrences everywhere he goes. Jack becomes unhinged and the hotel uses him to hurt his own family. This is the reason that The Shining is such a disturbing book and is looked at as one of the most scary books ever written, it is the father, flawed as he is, trying to kill his family. When it becomes someone that we know intimately through the entire story, it really ramps up the tension while flipping the pages.
What makes The Shining special is that the reader is deciding if Jack Torrance himself, and his personality, is the main culprit of his madness, or the hotel that has possessed him. I think depending on the person reading and their interpretation of the family dynamics plays a big part in deciding. Even though later in the book Wendy and Danny say multiple times say that Jack is not him anymore, there is still room for interpretation. I personally believe that Jack was influenced by the hotel but not possessed by the hotel. I think he desperately wanted something in his life to go well, to succeed, that when they offered him the chance to become the manager of the hotel, his ambitions got the best of him, and saw his family as a hindrance. His past and his temper were the instruments that the hotel used to persuade Jack into becoming this monster.
I find that tackling a book of a well known movie to be difficult at times. The reason I find it difficult is because there isn’t quite that desire to finish the book to find out what happens when you have seen the movie. I would have LOVED to of read The Shining before seeing the movie. The impact of some of the scenes would have been goose bumping intense. As it was, there was one moment when I did get goose bumps, and that was the reveal that redrum was murder backwards. Even though I knew it through the entire book, the scene is so well crafted, and Danny’s reaction is so great, that I couldn’t help have a response.
That was the only emotional or physical response I had from this book though. Having more than one of those responses is the difference for me between a book I like and a book I love. For that reason I decided to only give The Shining a 4/5 instead of a 5/5. I also have a hard time with Stephen King at times. He is one of the few where his profanity becomes annoying or distracting in the story. I’m not a huge King fan but I did enjoy this book. I hope to read the Dark Tower series of his some time.
This will be the last horror book for this October. Next year I hope to read I Am Legend and maybe Dracula.