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The Shining

The Shining Book Cover

Stephen King, 1977

What hasn't been said about The Shining? It is, pardon the pun, a shining example of what to do right when writing a horror novel. It immediately builds interest in the characters, sets up frightening and suspenseful concepts that do not get fleshed out until much later in the book, introduces a protagonist with a fatal flaw, and it continuously raises questions that are slowly answered page by page.

When Jack Torrance takes over as caretaker of the sprawling, snowbound Overlook Hotel for the winter months, he considers the isolation the perfect atmosphere for finishing his novel. His wife Wendy thinks it will be great for their son Danny, who has been having some emotional problems, and a chance for the family to bond. But soon the family realizes that all is not what it seems at the hotel.

This novel should not be picked up unless you have more than an hour to spend reading, as you will be scarcely able to stop reading once you begin. King leads you on a journey that is so fascinating, once you read one page, you will have to read another and another. Unlike other horror stories that are improbable or suspenseful rather than scary, this book is both chilling and exciting. Don't read it while you're in your house alone. You feel as though you are right there with the family as they sink deeper and deeper into the hotel's grasp.

Having seen Stanley Kubrick's 1980 movie version of the book, some people might not feel that they need to read the book. But the movie, as good as it was, does not quite capture the isolation, abandonment and terror that the Torrance family experience. A movie seldom can capture the mindsets, thoughts and motivations of characters the way books can. The Shining is such a spellbinding novel in part because the reader feels as if they are actually in the mind of the characters.

In The Shining, King has written a novel that can still hold its own more than 20 years later.

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Reviewed by: Hauntmistress 2/10/2001


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