Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Shining

Jack Torrance is a recovering alcoholic, desperate for a new start. He drove drunk regularly, drank heavily daily, and was encouraged by his alcoholic best friend. Two events changed his life: breaking his son's arm in a drunken rage and hitting what turned out to be just a bike on the highway with his best friend. Now he's on the straight and narrow. Jack, his son Danny, and his wife Wendy move into the historical and grand Overlook Hotel for the winter to act as caretaker, running the heat, doing maintenance, and making sure the hotel can open easily in the spring. The hotel has other plans and mysterious things start happening. At first, the happenings are relatively harmless, presenting as horrific visions, but soon, the visions give way to violence and horror. Can the family escape the hotel before it's too late or will they perish in the Overlook Hotel?

I know the story of The Shining very well. I first read it when I was about 10 or 12 years old and I remember absolutely loving it. Afterwards, I saw the various film adaptations and the story is still creepy and effective. This is the first time I read it as an adult and parts of it still hold up. It's one of the few ghost stories I like. It doesn't bring in religion (which is a pet peeve of mine as few of them are done well). It focuses on real life problems through the supernatural and the struggle of good versus evil. The Torrance family never really talks about their problems at all. It's the big elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge. Poor Danny doesn't know what's going on frequently with the situation with his family, reading peoples thoughts, seeing horrific images around the hotel, and finally being attacked by the apparitions. The only way they actually mention anything about Jack's drinking or anger problems are after the supernatural phenomena are present. It allows the family to unite (for a time) and address their problems. Jack Torrance is an interesting and deeply flawed character. He has a drinking problem and anger management issues, but he's a good person at heart. He cares for his family and wants to succeed for them. This job at the hotel is his last chance at success. The hotel exploits his flaws and turns him in to a literal monster, tragically destroying any humanity left in him.

The Shining has a lot of flaws that I didn't notice when I was younger. The writing is mostly good. King writes characters well and gives them little habits and quirks to make them memorable. However, the descriptions of everything and delving into every single detail of the characters' pasts just grew tedious. I wanted to move forward with the story instead of constantly revisiting the same past events through different perspectives. There was a lot of telling rather than showing. The reader can make connections in the text without it being explicitly stated and I felt that it was overkill to do so. I also had issues with Wendy and her choice to stay with Jack after he broke Danny's arm and beat a student rather severely. Her passivity and willingness to stay with Jack despite huge red flags simply disgusted me. Her reasons for staying were rather selfish, centering around not wanting to live with her mother and show that she failed rather than thinking about saving herself and her son from abuse.

The Shining is a good novel that I enjoyed. Parts of it dragged along and the writing was not always engaging, but the overall story and characters make the novel a classic that will continue to be popular for years to come. I hope the sequel Doctor Sleep is as good as, if not better, than the original.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

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