Title: The Shining
Author: Stephen King
Publication Date: 1977
Source: paperback copy that I've owned for ages
Plot Summary from Goodreads:
This tale of a troubled man hired to care for a remote mountain resort over the winter, his loyal wife, and their uniquely gifted son slowly but steadily unfolds as secrets from the Overlook Hotel's past are revealed, and the hotel itself attempts to claim the very souls of the Torrance family.
The Shining stands as a cultural icon of modern horror, a searing study of a family torn apart, and a nightmarish glimpse into the dark recesses of human weakness and dementia.
I suppose I've made no secret of the fact that I am JUST A LITTLE excited about the upcoming release of Doctor Sleep, Stephen King's sequel to The Shining. In preparation, I felt it was necessary to do a re-read of this King classic, since I'm pretty sure I was in 7th or 8th grade the last time I read it. (I know, hold the phone, what was a 12-year-old doing reading this freakish novel? This explains so much about my mental health.)
Returning to this book 15+ years after my original reading was a completely different experience. Yes, I already knew what was going to happen--and I pretty much did the first time around too, thanks to the movie. (Oh my God, why did I watch this movie when I was younger than 12 years old? Do I even have parents? (Kidding, Mom. It was Dad who let me watch it anyway.))
But even if you've seen the movie, or read it before, The Shining doesn't get any less haunting upon subsequent reads. The novel focuses on the Torrance family (Jack, Wendy, and 5-year-old Danny), recently relocated to Colorado after Jack lost his job in Vermont. Jack has signed on as the winter caretaker for the Overlook hotel, a gigantic resort in the Rocky Mountains that gets so snow-bound in the winter, the hotel has to shut down completely from October to May. So yes, that's right--Jack and family will be living alone, in this enormous hotel, for 6 months. Before you say "NBD, loves me some Candy Crush time," let's keep in mind this is 1977 and once the snow flies, they're cut off from the world except by CB radio.
I'm not doing spoilers here, but this is Stephen King, so obviously the entire scenario goes downhill fast. That's no secret--in fact, King starts to plant the seeds of impending doom in the earliest pages, building your sense of dread all the way up to the inevitably dire conclusion. Even though Danny is arguably the star of this show, I definitely found myself most fascinated by Jack's decent into madness throughout the novel. If you've seen the movie, this is a central portion of its plot. Jack Nicholson's character slowly turns from (semi) responsible family man to raving murderous lunatic. The difference in the book (and what makes me love it justalittle more than the film) is that it's not just about Jack--it's about the hotel. The movie does incorporate this, but not nearly to the extent that King does in the book. Yes, Jack begins to lose his mind--but why? How much of it can be attributed to his alcoholic past, or his abusive father...and how much of it is the hotel itself? It's much more complex than what you'll see in Kubrick's screen version, and I love that. King has a knack for the supernatural elements in his stories, and this is no exception.
However, during this reading I also paid particular attention to Danny. Doctor Sleep picks up with Danny as an adult, so I wanted to really focus on his role in The Shining. Danny has a gift of precognition, or the "shine" as it is described to him, and this is the driving force behind much of The Shining's plot. Danny, that poor kid--he has to do a lot of growing up as his parents slowly lose control of the situation. I can't wait to see how these horrible events come back to haunt him (probably literally) in Doctor Sleep.
This was less of a review and more of a "let's get pumped for part two," but obviously, The Shining is one of my King favorites. The suspense is intense and the character development alone is a great reason to delve into it. If you're not sure about SK horror, I will warn you that there is some gore, and you may not want to read this one at midnight as you're trying to drift off to sleep. But I hope you won't let that deter you. I was happy to revisit it as an adult, and I can't wait to see what else is in store for Danny in the sequel.
UPDATE: In a random coincedence, my friend Damen (who writes for the film blog Hey U Guys) wrote a blog post today about some crazy theories re: Stanley Kubrick movies (including The Shining). If you've seen the movie and want more Shining fix today, check it out HERE.