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King novels are something of a 'they're good, but...' thing for me, and Duma Key was no different. I guess it's the supernatural twist he tends to add, but in terms of the readability and how well written this book is, it gets a thumbs up.
Duma Key introduces us to Edgar Freemantle, a successful business man who, after an accident at work involving a big hunk of machinery crashing into his car, lost his arm. The damage to his brain caused much disturbance in his speech, memory and personality, but the sudden outbursts of anger were what eventually cost him his wife. With his two daughters, now young women, away elsewhere, and his inability to run hs once very successful business, he is more alone than he has been before, and recovery seems a long way away. But, the business has made him a wealthy enough man to find his own oasis someplace else to attempt to recuperate. Edgar opts to head to a remote bit of land off the West Coast of Florida, Duma Key. It sounds beautiful and peaceful, with strangely only a few homes to account for, most of which are owned by Elizabeth.
We're taken on Edgar's journey of recovery, his struggles with anger, his relationship to his anger management doll, Reba, his beach walks, and eventually his encounter with Wireman. Wireman seems like a pool of knowledge and good sayings, but he's suffered his own medical incident which took him away from his old life as a lawyer, down to Duma Key where he looks after Elizabeth, an old lady with a strong family history in the area.
To skim through the basics, this book is written in first person and so we get a view directly from Edgar of what he sees and feels. We learn of the strangeness enshrouding Duma, his sudden ability to paint like a demon, the strange goings on and old wives tales. In fact, the book is pretty much centred around the theme of drawing, which will become evident not long after Edgar moves to Duma. Obviously this bit of land isn't as beautiful and peaceful as it seems on the surface. But can Edgar work out what's going on before it's too late, or will more horror ensue before he can dig up the past and find what he's looking for?
What I really liked was both the interesting plot, which wasn't like something I'd usually read, and the way in which it was written. King has a way with words and brings the characters to life, makes the scenes vivid and paints the experience with emotion. The web of characters expands and plot gets more complex, but not overly so. Admittedly, there were points where I wondered quite what was going on, and some of it was very unrealistic. Having said that, it's supposed to be; it has a supernatural edge and twist that you half expect from early on, but he does it in a way that's not too over the top, that not too melodramatic and in-your-face. He actually does a good job of replicating the type of atmosphere a horror film attempts to; he creates images of nightmares and paints them with words.
There's more praise for King on the front cover : 'The greatest popular novelist of our day, comparable to Dickens' - Guardian. There's also further praise on the back, including: 'A psychological thriller of extraordinary sensitivity that takes the reader deep into the dark places in us all' - Independent On Sunday, 'A consummate and compassionate novel - One of King's very best' - Guardian, 'Thrilling, genuinely terrifying, beautifully textured and full of wonderful invention' - Daily Mail.
When given a choice at the fork in the road, to give up or train again, Edgar chooses to fight, and that's quite emotive and motivating to read. The relationship that builds between him and Wireman, and even with Jack, the young lad that's helping Edgar out at the new house, is delicate and enjoyable to see unfold and mature. Overall, this book offers a bit of everything; drama, thrills, horror, emotion, all of which are bound together in a book that's enjoyable to get stuck into. Having said that, however, the supernatural aspects aren't everyone's cuppa tea. They're not usually mine, but I would still recommend this because of the high quality writing style and depth of characters and scenes.
Hardback 581 pages over 22 chapters (further broken down by paragraphs separated by stars, and introductions to some sections of the book regarding 'how to draw').
Very long book (almost 600 pages). It belongs mainly in the drama/fantasy books by King (like Bag of Bones, Dark Tower, Gerald's Game) so the fans of his 'purer' horror stories (Salem's Lot, Pet Cemetery, The Cell, The Mist) may be disappointed. The action / horror really exists in only the last 200 pages. Excellent all-round characters though and interesting mystery, as usual by King.
For most people - myself included - Stephen King went seriously off the boil in the 1990s, turning in a series of dull, almost non-sensical books that suggested he was past his best and relying on his reputation to sell books. A life-changing event (a serious accident) seems to have shifted that lethargy as, since then his books have (one or two exceptions aside) improved.
The accident appears to have had another impact: Stephen King has finally grown up. I don't mean that in a nasty way, but his earlier works were mostly about literal monsters - vampires, demonic possession and ghosts. His more recent works have been more psychological, relying on atmosphere and characters to build a sense of doom and despair. Although King's books have always held a psychological aspect, recent titles have seen a marked shift in this direction.
This will not please everyone. Some like their tales of monsters and vampires, since in some ways these are less horrific and more comfortable: things which exist in the imagination can give us a vicarious thrill, but do no permanent damage in the "real world". The psychological horror he has moved to is far closer to our everyday experiences, far more plausible and it is that familiarity which makes it more chilling.
And so it is with Duma Key. It starts with the main character, Edgar Fremantle, losing an arm in a serious work accident which causes his whole life to fall apart. Moving to the quiet island of Duma Key to recover, he rediscovers a talent for painting, but slowly begins to suspect that something evil is using his paintings to cross back into our world.
It is a mark of King's story-telling skills that he is able to take an apparently preposterous storyline and turn it into a compelling and atmospheric book. Certainly when the basic plot was outlined in the press, more than a few eyebrows were raised thinking that King had finally lost it. Yet, once again, he confounds his critics through skilful writing and characterisation.
Whereas King's early books were generally short(ish) affairs, over the years they have grown considerably and his last few novels (Lisey's story, Cell and Duma Key) have been pretty hefty volumes. This gives King the luxury of being able to develop his characters, settings and atmosphere more effectively, to devote greater attention to building tension, rather than relying on cheap shocks or obvious monsters. It's hard to describe just how much this new angle adds to King's writing, but I found myself gripped from the start by Duma Key.
What works so well is how King gradually widens the scope of the book. It starts off focussing almost exclusively on Fremantle and his slow recovery. A lot of time is spent establishing little details of his daily life and how he copes with the pain and drives himself on to recovery (King is clearly calling on bitter personal experience to achieve this). Not only are the descriptions so vivid, they also help to establish Fremantle as a very real character, someone who still cares deeply for his family and is angry at the circumstances which have brought about his downfall. He surely reacts in exactly the same way that most of us would - struggling to come to terms with what has happened and bitter that it happened to him.
Then King starts to broaden Fremantle's horizons (and, by extension, those of the reader). New characters are slowly introduced and established in the same pain-staking way; friendships develop cautiously and there is a genuine sense of bonding between what will become the book's central players. Once again, this is important because, when they are placed in peril you feel like you are part of that team, and care about each of the characters.
Only then does King start to concentrate on the more supernatural/horror elements of the plot. Of course, the seeds for this have already been planted and each of these vague hints and gradual revelations has piqued the interest further. King has frequently proved himself master of the slow reveal and creeping sense of menace and it's a talent he uses to good effect in Duma Key. Veiled hints are made, occasional small clues revealed and underlying everything is the certain knowledge that soon things are going to get very bad indeed. This slow-building atmosphere is crucial to the success of the book. Had King simply leapt straight in with the main plotline, it would have seemed ludicrous and silly and here would have been no buy-in from the reader. Because King takes the time to build realistic characters, places and plotlines, the reader is gripped.
That's not to say the book is perfect. The book's large size (almost 700 pages) will put some off straight away. Some King fans will also prefer the more straightforward monster-based horror of his early stuff than the more considered, character based approach of Duma Key. The slow pace of the plotting will certainly put some people off and they will be anxious to get rid of all this "irrelevant detail" and cut to the chase.
There are also a few small signs that King is starting to plagiarise himself. The concept of a very old monster sleeping for long periods before waking to wreak terror recalls "It"; the final section reminded me of the King/Straub collaboration "The Black House". It's here that Duma Key is at its weakest, as, despite the new setting and characters, there is a slight sense of déjà vu. I did find the build-up to the final confrontation slightly drawn out and, like so many of King's works it's around 50-75 pages too long.
After the successful psychological/supernatural storyline of Lisey's Story and the apocalyptic plot of Cell, there is little evidence that the well of King's imagination is running dry. His ability to tell a compelling, human "ghost story" remains undimmed.
Hodder Paperbacks, 2008
© Copyright SWSt 2010
(by the way, you'll need to read the book to understand the relevance of the title!)
From the writer who brought you classics such as The Stand and the Shawshank Redemption, another great tale is woven with seemingly such ease and elegance. Despite Stephen King's fall in performance, I can gladly say that this book generated the same feelings I had when reading The Stand for the first time. In particular, his idiosyncratic character development comes together so brightly in this novel, giving that great page turner feel that I crave in his books.
Without giving too much away, this book documents the story of a successful businessman (Edgar Freemantle) who suffers a horrific accident which leaves him disabled as well as catalyses the breakdown of his marriage. For rehabilitation he stays on an island called Duma Key. Here he picks up an old hobby of painting which soon unlocks much darker things than his accident that nearly killed him. Additionally, he makes a friend known as Wireman, a great character in my opinion and together they help unlock the secrets of the Key and put an end to the sinister forces that surround them.
In my opinion, this is by no means Stephen King's best novel but it is indeed a great representation of what the man can do. The story itself is good, though I felt the climax wasn't as great as I had hoped. Instead I really enjoyed the beautifully written friendship between Wireman and Edgar , something about Stephen King's writing has always captivated me in his characters and that is done very well in this book. For any King fan, this is certainly another addition that won't disappoint and for people new to this genre, it's a suitable book to start with.
As an avid Stephen King fan I was definately not disappointed!
Duma key is the story of Edgar Freemantle who loses his arm and suffers head trauma as a result of an on site accident. After the breakdown of his marriage he goes to live in Duma Key to help his rehabilitation. It is here he re-discovers his talent of painting which portray upcoming tradgedies which he is powerless to stop and forgotten secrets of the Island, which Edgar then seeks to uncover and as a sinister force unveils itself he needs to find a way to stop it, with the help of his new found friend wireman.
King's never failing vivid description helps the reader to both build strong images of the key characters and to an extent form a connection and understanding. In addition to being a classic horror, this themes of this book include friendship, love and tradgedy.
This is a long book at 688 pages but a gripping page turner.
Its going to take more than Reba the anger management doll to stop Edgar Freemantle killing his soon to be ex-wife. Its not as though he meant to strangle her, he just wanted to shut her up for a bit. Her crying was a bit much. She wasn't the one whose pick-up truck picked a fight with a twelve story crane and lost. She didn't have to live with the permanent headaches, the scrambled feeling within his brain that resulted in something akin to Tourettes Syndrome. It wasn't that he intended to swear. The right words were in there somewhere but the wrong ones always seemed to come out.
The loss of his arm pales into significance compared to the partial loss of his sight and his marbles. Fortunately Edgar has money, lots of it and follows the advice of his shrink distances himself from his wife with the rental of Salmon Point, a secluded property on Duma Key, a small peninsula off the coast of Florida.
He begins the long process of recuperation with walks on the beach which become longer and longer eventually leading him to a neighbouring mansion where he meets Elisabeth and Wireman.
Elisabeth is a very wealthy octogenarian with an obsession with ceramic figurines. Permanently brain injured after a childhood accident Elisabeth is rarely lucid preferring her porcelain people to the occupants of the mortal world. Specifically she likes to put them into a biscuit tin and throw the into the koi bond. Shes one crazy lady. Or perhaps she holds the secret to the salvation of the inhabitants of Duma Key.
Edgar has dreams, lots and lots of dreams and is inspired to paint. Prior to his accident he hadn't painted since school where he was mediocre at best, since the accident though his seascapes are worthy of an exhibition. When inspiration strikes Edgar paints like a man possessed going hours or even days without food or sleep sometimes without realising what hes doing. Still it feels good and its helping him come to terms with his injury. His dreams become nightmares and get realer and realer until its sometimes hard to distinguish reality from the nightmare realm as the two seem to morph seamlessly into one.
Who are the little girls who call to him from the beach and why does Elisabeth warn him not to allow his daughters to visit?
Theres a lot more to Duma Key than meets the eye. Its most definitely one of the best Stephen King novels I've ever read. Its infinately better than The Green Mile or Christine both of which were made into films.
Duma Key contains lots and lots of suspense and plenty of unusual twists which leave you wanting to read on to find out what happens next and plenty does happen. There are retrospective looks at Elisabeth's childhood as history begins to repeat itself. Will the consequences be as awful the second time around?
I read it cover to cover in two days, it wasn't unputdownable but it was the sort of story which leaves you wanting more.
Edgar Freemantle had a great life until he collided with a crane on one of his building sites and nearly died. Losing an arm instead and having various issues with his head which was crused in the accident, his marriage finally collapses due to his crazed behaviour during and after recovery. His decision to move to Duma Key and recouperate away from the stresses of life will change his life forever.
Once there, in a rented house called Big Pink, he settles down and starts to paint again, something he used to do when he was much younger. His paintings are very good but he soon finds out they seem to have a power that is incomprehensible.
I adored this book! After trying to read Lisey's Story and giving up, Duma Key restored my faith in King and I settled in for the long read with a greed for his stories.
I absolutely loved the characters in this book but my favourite was Edgar's freind who lives down the beach from him on Duma, Wireman. I built up such a picture of him through King's narrative and dialouge and if this was made into a film then Jeff Bridges would have to play him a that is how I see him. His character however is amazing. He is the full time live in carer for an old lady who lives on the Key and his friendship with Edgar and their subsequent investigative work over some of the strange things that are happening is fantastic. While we're talking characters if this were a film - then Roxy from Eastenders would play Edgar's daughter perfectly too!
This is a horror book, as well as a thriller, a love story (not the normal kind) and a mystery but all lumped in together it really works and the end result is a brilliant read. I did get the willies a couple of times, when some of the narrative turned to spooky goings on with the young twin sister's of the old lady but it was in a good way - it made me want to read more to justify what was happening and how I was feeling.
Would I recommend? Absolutely, it's long but worth it, especially if you were disillusioned with some of his last offerings.
I have just finished my second Stephen King book in as many weeks, I'm not the biggest King fan but Dreamcatcher and Duma Key have so impressed me that I am going to make a point of collecting a few of his novels and reading them as I'm starting to think that perhaps he really does live up to all his hype and I've overlooked a fabulous author.
Duma Key is his latest book so I was quite lucky to find it on the shelf in my local library, it has very striking artwork on the cover which appealed to me even though it doesn't really tell me much about what to expect from the book.
The novel tells the story of Edgar Freemantle, a multi-millionaire who discovers that money isn't everything after his life collapses following an accident at work. Edgar lost his arm and suffered a minor degree of brain damage, he changes from a loving placid man to a man consumed with anger who can erupt into a rage at the drop of a hat. His wife of 25 years can't cope with the changes in Edgar and asks for a divorce, which he agrees to immediately as he somehow blames his wife for his new disabilities and hates the fact that she can get on with her life while he is in daily pain and cannot function as he used to.
On the advice of his psychiatrist Edgar moves away from his family home, he is inexplicably drawn to a small island off the Florida coast and settles in for a year of recuperation in an idyllic house overlooking the ocean. But Duma Key isn't 'right'. He discovers he has a talent for art and quickly develops this, not wondering at first how he can possibly create such masterpieces in middle age when before the accident the best he could do were a few doodles for his daughters'. As time goes on he meets two fascinating fellow residents on Duma Key and it's then that he realises something on the island is using his art to feed evil, and that's where the fun begins.
I think the main reason I enjoyed this book so much was because I immediately warmed to Edgar, I could see that despite his anger and the poor way he treated his wife he was only acting like this because he was suffering mentally from his accident. I think King created this character wonderfully, Edgar was realistic and a well rounded character with real human flaws which made him so much more believable than those fluffy perfect characters you find in many novels of this type. As his time on the island descended into terror and darkness I was telepathically shouting at him to make the right decision and not do certain things, he's a very intelligent chap which contradicts an embarrassing speech impediment he was left with following his accident. His anger was really very acute at some points in the book and seemed so true to life that I wonder how much of the character King based on himself following his own extremely serious road accident some years ago.
When Edgar began painting he would go into a fugue of sorts, remembering very little the next morning other than the fact that he had been ravenously hungry after creating one of his masterpieces. After a while he had some frightening experiences where he found he could see into the future through the images he painted, and things take a turn for the worse when he realises he can actually change the outcome of things simply by painting an abstract picture detailing the changes he'd like to make. I enjoyed the horror Edgar felt as he tried to control his newly found power, he knew he was ultimately not doing a good thing and soon became terrified not only for himself but for his family as he discovered he could not control his gift as well as he thought.
His nearest neighbours on Duma Key are an elderly lady, now stricken with Alzheimers, and her carer, Wireman. Edgar and Wireman immediately strike up a bond and become firm friends from the outset. At first Wireman grated on me a little as he's a typical cocky King character who has to tell a joke or one liner at the end of practically every sentence, do bear with him though as once you're past this dislike you'll soon see the wisdom this strange man has to offer and he does tie together a lot of the story with his insights into the history of the island. His elderly charge, Elizabeth Eastlake, is a creepy character. She has lived on Duma Key for most of her long life and has a passion for art, when she learns of Edgar's talent she becomes very interested and starts to give him cryptic messages about his paintings and what they might mean.
Together Wireman and Elizabeth are excellent characters, they obviously dote on one another and watching the situation of Elizabeth's declining mental abilities take it's toll on Wireman was very moving. They are both extremely complex characters, something which isn't obvious at the beginning but as the novel wore on I found myself admiring both of them very much. There is an air of expectancy surrounding Elizabeth and from the very first time I met her I knew she was going to be pivotal to the story, it was a stroke of genius giving her Alzheimers as King was able to addle her speech enough for the clues she gave Edgar not to mean anything on their own, only when they are all taken together towards the end of the story do they begin to make sense.
Edgar's family feature in the novel to a certain degree but really only his nineteen year old daughter Ilse has any bearing on the story. Although Edgar has two daughters' of a similar age, Ilse is his favourite and he would do anything to keep her safe. He acknowledged that she was his favourite daughter and I must admit I felt very sorry for his older daughter, Melissa, who it appeared had given up trying to gain his approval and had moved to France to put some distance between herself and her father who made no attempt to disguise his feelings for his two daughters. To me Melissa actually seemed the stronger of the two girls' and I think King should perhaps have drawn her into the story more, Ilse seemed rather out of place on Duma Key and I think a wider storyline could have been built around Melissa as she would have coped with the drama in a much better way than her younger sister.
King has described Duma Key and its inhabitants beautifully, I could picture the scene in my minds eye as I was reading and after a while was able to visualise the island as Edgar must have been seeing it; the beauty of the beach, the imposing vines which crowded in on Edgar and Wireman as they attempted to unearth the secrets of Duma Key, even the pile on shells underneath Edgar's big pink house took on a real life aura so good were King's descriptions.
This is a lengthy novel at almost 600 pages but every single chapter, page and sentence of the writing adds something to the story. Stephen King has proved himself to be a master story teller time and time again, but in Duma Key I honestly think he has outdone itself as far as character development and sheer excitement goes. The novel is so fast paced, often branching out in a direction I wasn't expecting only to snap back to the main storyline and fill in some gaps at the same time. Every occurrence in the story is believable, King hasn't created any filler characters who are only there to move the story along and this is excellent because it means the novel flows beautifully and all events are self explanatory.
The dialogue is classic King, all his characters shoot from the hip and speak mostly in the manner of real Americans. There are lots of jokey comments and one liners from his characters, many more than you'd expect in real life, but these are somehow not as irritating as those in other books by this author where 'witty' comment quickly becomes a chance for King to show off as to how cleverly amusing he is, or isn't as the case may be. I think it's perfect in this story though as perhaps Duma Key would be too dark a tale without these jokes and witty asides to lighten it up a little.
I thoroughly recommend Duma Key to King fans, and even those of you who are not terribly keen on the author. It had me gripped from start to finish and left me reading into the wee small hours several times, I was tempted to rush through the book as I was so keen to find out what was going to happen but forced myself to slow down and savour the excitement in the story. I love the short chapters, some being just three or four pages long, as being short and snappy they really gave the impression that things on Duma Key are moving at break neck speed and made me want to read the next chapter straight away to see how things panned out at that moment in time.
You can borrow a copy of Duma Key from the library as I did or Amazon have the paperback version very reasonably priced at £5.15 for those of you who like to own your books. Personally I was so impressed with this novel that I would happily have paid that and more for the reading privilege of King at his very, very best.
We follow Edgar Freemantle who initially comes across as an unlikable character. This it turns out is due in part to a car accident he earlier had and also a shift in his personality.
He loses an arm in the accident and this causes further angry outbursts. His wife leaves him before he hurts her and this only adds to his ugly characterisation.
He ups sticks and moves to Florida, A place called Duma Key. Once here he begins to sketch and paint with some odd results.
The fear that his sketches begin to generate builds slowly and is well laid out. His drawings uncover some startling truths and horrible revelations from the past.
The old lady is not as kindly as she first appears, what has happened to the twin sisters? And who will finally snap and take action against his 'Art'.
This is a decent book but not in the league of 'cell' or James Herberts 'Secret of Crickley Hall' but it is a god read. The writing is excellent and there are a few surprises along the way. The slow build to the shattering conclusion is of course well done. He really manages to put a creeping horror onto the page.
Although the book ends quickly this is no bad thing.
Recommended to read at least the once.
Summary: a slow starter but that build up adds to the suspension later on.
Written by Stephen King.
I've been a bit cautious about reading Stephen King books just lately, as I've felt that he hasn't quite got the 'edge' he used to have. However, Duma Key promised to be a good read, and I was pleased when a copy was given to me for Christmas. I've just finished reading it, and I wasn't disappointed.
When Edgar Freemantle is involved in a serious accident which results in a head injury plus damage to his leg and hip and the loss of one arm, he finds that his character is changing for the worse, and, following the advice of his counsellor, rents a property in Duma Key, Florida, to convalesce. He decides to take up his old interest of drawing and painting again, and starts creating pictures of the view from the window of his rented house, which looks out over the Gulf of Mexico. He soon finds that he does not make the decision of what to paint - it's as if some force outside of him is controlling the brushes and pencils. He begins to realise that he is painting pictures depicting horrific events that happened on the island 80 years ago, and from there, it is a race against time to lay the 'ghosts' to rest ...
Edgar has made a lot of money in the construction industry, and at the start of the book is shown as a not very likeable character. However, his flaws are revealed to be quite understandable, and I found myself really caring about what happened to him.
His neighbours on the island are an elderly lady, Elizabeth Eastlake, and her carer, Jerome Wireman. In what seems like a coincidence, both of these people have suffered head injuries in the past - although, this being Stephen King, nothing is a coincidence! Elizabeth is in the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease, and is portrayed very realistically as she floats between lucidity and incoherence.
Wireman is slightly less fully portrayed, most of our assumptions coming from his dialogue, which is succinct and a little cryptic at times.
The other major character is Jack Cantori, the local agent for the rental company. He is a younger man, who becomes friendly with both Edgar and Wireman.
All of the characters in the book are shown in just the right amount of detail, something King is very good at.
The pace of the book
This is a seriously big book - nearly 700 pages - but I never felt that there was any part where the action was too slow, or that any parts were 'filler' sections. There are no 'side plots' which leave you wondering how on earth they are relevant to the story; you just want to keep on reading. The last couple of chapters build up to a climactic ending.
As I said, I felt that Stephen King's more recent work hasn't had the 'bite' of his earlier work. The previous King novel I read was Lisey's Story, and that left me quite disappointed. However, this one I found very difficult to put down. At his best, King has the knack of introducing just enough information to get your brain working, and then pulling the threads together just at the right time, so that you've almost worked out what something means, and reading on confirms whether you were right or not. This one has a high 'creepy' factor - I read lots of crime/murder/horror stories, and this one had me just a little bit afraid to go to sleep!
One of King's later novels and a good one to boot. Actually right now the book is sitting on my desk, I am re-reading it for the 3rd time.
As is typical with King's later books the 'bad guy' is much less obvious. His earlier work had ghosts, gypsies, giant spiders (!), his later ones, are typically weirder, if that is possible.
This is a weird one, but a damn fine one at that. It follows the story of Edgar Freemantal, a man who after loosing an arm and a wife moves to Florida, Duma Key, to start over. There he beings to paint, something he hasn't done in years.
He is good, too good, something is helping him, and there is something strange about the whole island.
The book is seemingly split into two, as are many of his books, the first half is the story of a man who discovers a talent and becomes a famous artist almost overnight (fun in a very heart-warming way) and the second half where he realizes that something is helping him paint, and that something is now trying to kill him and his family. (Which becomes extremely scary towards the end)
A mysterious book, fun and easy to read, as are all of King's book. It is very, very strange, but if you can except the unusual then you will love this book.
Those of you who are familiar with my other reviews may know that I have a little pet-hate when it comes to popular novels which is known by the name of "cover-blurb". This basically refers to the collection of quotes from popular newspapers, fellow authors or minor celebrities that often appears either on the front or back of the novel inevitably singing it's praises. To be fair, I don't have a problem with "cover-blurb" per se, it's only when afore mentioned quotes make outlandish or irrational statements that my blood begins to boil!! In the past we have had Kathy Reichs described as "as good as Cornwell or your money back..."- Well personally I think Reichs stomps all over Cornwell so in my mind comparing the two is doing Reichs a disservice. Now, with DUMA KEY, Stephen King's latest offering, we have the master himself being compared to none less than Charles Dickens!! By both THE TIMES and THE GUARDIAN who, in my mind, should surely know better or, at the very least, could at least judge King on his own merits. To me, it sounds as though these high-caliber papers are trying to justify their reasons for reading King's work. When he was a lowly horror novelist, no doubt neither of these papers would've wanted to know; all of a sudden, King has started to be regarded as the respectable writer he has been for years and the whole world and it's dog wants to sing his praises where as before, they wouldn't have deemed themselves desperate enough to pick up one of his novels....
Anyway, rant over- what's DUMA KEY actually like?
Well, actually it's pretty good; described as King's "David Copperfield", (again with the comparisons!!) it's not his best but is by no means his worst offering which, after 40 odd books written over the course of 30 odd years, is fairly good going by anyone's standards. Set largely on the Florida island of Duma Key, the novel tells the story of Edgar Freemantle who loses his right arm and almost both his his life and his mind as well, after a particularly horrific accident involving a crane. Forced to reassess his life when his wife leaves him and contemplating suicide, he follows
the advice of a counselor and moves to a remote area of Florida where he intends to take up painting; a hobby of his long since forgotten after he built up his own building contractor company virtually from scratch. Residing in a rented house he comes to think of as "Big Pink", it's real name is Salmon Point, and becalmed by the sound of the crashing waves breaking on the shells beneath his residence, he soon discovers his artistic talent much more prevalent than he remembers. Suddenly he is painting at an excessive speed and with a skill he never realized he possessed. Not only that, but his paintings begin to take on an ever more increasing surreal and spooky content with elements of prescience Freemantle can barely fathom. Things take an even further step into the world of the very strange when Edgar meets his nearest neighbor, Wireman, who exhibits supernatural talents of his own. Wireman spends his day caring for the elderly lady, Elizabeth Eastlake, who owns the island and all it's properties and also acts as a handy man during the tourist season when a selection of wealthy families use the island as their personal retreat. As Edgar and Wireman begin to examine just how far Freemantle's abilities will stretch, they also find themselves getting involved in the secrets of Elizabeth Eastlake's family history and a curse, recently re-awakened, that dogged her brethren for much of her childhood. Somehow, all is tied in with the overgrown north end of the island and an abandoned road which makes anyone who tries to follow it severely ill and, as Edgar and Wireman all too soon discover, Duma Key is only willing to give up its secrets reluctantly and at great cost to everything both of them hold dear.....
Though many of King's recent novels have come in for much criticism by both critics and fans alike, personally I have quite enjoyed them all, this newest novel seems to be a winner on both fronts. With it's central theme of loss (Edgar Freemantle loses his arm, loses his wife and comes close several times to losing his mind), it is not the happiest of King's novels at times and be prepared as there's no "happy ever after" at the book's climax either. Instead we are treated to the story of one man putting the pieces of his life back together from scratch, discovering an unknown talent and then realizing the price of his fame and popularity. We are also given a very in-depth look at what it is to be an artist, the creator of an imaginary world be it in literary form or as a visionary landscape on canvas, whilst still getting the trade-mark King "ghost story" that long-time fans (or King's "constant readers" as he calls them affectionally) have come to expect. Certainly this is a better novel than either LISEY'S STORY, BAG OF BONES or ROSE MADDER with which it shares many similarities, though it is by no means the best thing he has ever written which, for me, still has to be old-time classic, THE STAND.
In fact, DUMA KEY is derivative of many of King's earlier works with references to many of them cleverly added in what has become another of King's trademarks. I was able to spot, amongst others, very subtle and easily missed references to THE DARK TOWER ( Edgar paints a picture in which hundreds of roses feature and refers to himself, at one stage, as a gunslinger) and CUJO (Wireman tells Edgar to beware of the bats hanging in the eaves as they can carry rabies) though newer fans will probably miss these altogether and at no time are they made obvious enough so as to alienate anyone who has not read his earlier books. Indeed these are here merely for the older fan's delight and trigger a real sense of joy when you recognize what King is referring to.
Maybe it's just me but I think King's writing is just getting better and better as he gets older and his characters still feel just as alive and real to the reader as they did back when he began his career. One of the factors that has made King as successful as he is, is his strong characterization; all of King's novels are about ordinary people to whom extraordinary things happen and that is both what makes him so believable and so enjoyable an author to read. Judging from this, King still has plenty of way to go before he reaches the clearing at the end of the road and lets hope his next novel is every bit as good if not better than this.
I'm still not totally convinced King is this generations Charles Dickens or that this is his David Copperfield but maybe I'm coming round to the idea......certainly he has the appeal and the fan-base that will ensure that all of his many assorted works will be around for a very long-time before they are forgotten.
It is just a shame that more of the movies based on his novels can't match the excellence of their original source material....
Edgar Freemantle has issues. After losing his arm in an accident at work he has become increasingly aggressive to the point were he has lost his wife and become a shadow of his former self. More in desperation than hope, Edgar take his psychiatrists advice and takes a break from it all in the beautiful Florida backwater of "Duma Key". In this place Edgar finds a new purpose and passion in painting and his vivid paintings of sunsets soon begin to attract attention. However, does the phantom itch in his missing arm mean something and why does he seem compelled to paint the tragic story of the doomed sisters of Duma Key?
It has been a long time since I have read a Stephen King novel. After the woeful, self-indulgent tripe that was "Lisey's Story" I have intentionally had a break from my favourite author. As a self-professed "constant reader" I have felt somewhat let down by King over recent years. His works have seemed to verge more and more into the indulgence and arrogance of someone trying too hard to achieve critical and literary acclaim. Rather than writing with the imagination and creativity that I know King is capable of, I have instead found myself reading more prose and less story. Fortunately, "Duma Key" is an attempt to address this.
This is not to say this novel is not long. At near 600 pages it is the lengthy read you have come to expect from King, and indeed, most authors as of late. It would seem the longer you write the more lyrical you wax! However, at least in this novel time passes quickly as you become engrossed in Edgar Freemantle's story early on and intrigued by his sudden artistic, almost supernatural abilities. Edgar is a likeable, flawed protagonist and his battle with his demons is fascinating throughout. As he flourishes on Duma Key you gain an empathy for his disability and his emerging relationship with neighbour "Wireman" is a compelling and heartwarming one. In fact, despite this being a horror novel in it's essence, this reads more like a story of relationships for long periods.
"Duma Key" itself is also a fantastically realised location. King fills this idyllic little slice of the Florida coastline with an air of beauty, menace and mystery. The heavy, foreboding atmosphere of the other side of the Key provides a perfect contrast to Edgar's perfect house "Big Pink" and King fills the Key with vivid imagery from the smell of the sea to the rattling of the shells under Edgar's beach house.
Initially an uplifting novel about art and emerging friendships, the tale soon progresses into established King horror territory as Edgar begins to realise the Key has a tragic history. As the story unfolds the menace of the sea becomes more and more pronounced and what was an uplifting novel becomes an edgy, scary nightmare. The pace increases rapidly at this point and we begin to fear for Edgar, his friends and his family as a malevolent villain starts to make themselves known. Very much like a Greek tragedy, this novel bares great similarity to another King novel "Rose Madder" but were that novel was fractured, this flows beautifully from start to finish.
As a reader you care about the characters past and present in "Duma Key". There plights become yours and especially in the case of Edgar and his friend Wireman, you fear for them as it becomes clear that something on "Duma Key" does not like them delving into the past.
Of course, at such a length it is almost impossible for a novel to hold your attention throughout and there are some portions of the novel when your attention may start to wane. There is a great emphasis on the art world and it's inner working and at times the explanations of the creative process slow things down to a bit of a crawl. However, on the whole this is a novel that excites and captivates and is as close to vintage King as I have read in many years. The characters are interesting, the story is tight and exciting and the scares build slowly but to a satisfying level of horror.
As with any good horror novel it is all about whether you want to keep on reading despite the fact you are increasingly scared witless and "Duma Key" succeeds in this on every page. It has that "you want to look away but can't" quality that all good horror novels should have and you will not want to put it down until you know how it all ends. For the first time in ages King has written an intelligent horror novel that his "constant readers" as well as newcomers can enjoy. Accessible and fresh this is one horror novel you should not miss.
Let me start by saying this review will not be 1000 words long, nor will I compare one book with another, or writing styles such as 'this book is more touchy feely', (although this one is) oops.
This one is a bit of a slow starter but once up and running it is an ok read.
Without giving too many spoilers away...
The main Character, Edgar Freemantle is badly injured when his car collides with a crane. He loses his arm and suffers some brain trauma.
This causes extremely nasty outbursts with his wife resulting in his divorce.
His doctor recommends he moves somewhere quiet and he heads off to 'Duma Key', leaving behind Minnesota for Florida.
Edgar comes across as, well, not a particular nice guy. But there is a reason for this....
In Duma he discovers a talent for sketching and painting with supernatural consequences. His art begins to uncover truths hidden in Duma, (what happened to the twin sisters?) (What secrets is the old lady hiding?) (What is really happening with his art?).
The relationships between the characters develop well and are convincing. King concentrates on feeling and emotions and does it very well.
The book puts over a creeping horror, very successfully.
The climax of the book was a bit quick, not sure if I will read it again to see if I missed something.
Probably won't though it's, 600 pages long!
Again, Please forgive the shortness of this review but the above points really are all the highlights.