I really like reading Stephen King books although I do think his older books are better stories than the more recent ones. I hadn't read one of his for a while though and someone gave me this book called Lisey's Story the other day so I read it.
The story is about a woman who's husband was a writer and he has died and she is trying to sort out his belongings including his manuscripts which she still has left around his study.
Her sister helps her with the sorting but Lisey notices that her sister is suffering from mental problems which seem to escalate. Then Lisey finds her sister talking to her as though she is her late husband and things start to get creepy.
I thought this was a good book, it took me a while to get into it and I kept thinking at first I wasn't going to like it that much but as it went along I was compelled to read on to see what was going to happen next.
The story was quite hard to understand in places as it delves into peoples minds and things they have thought up so there was a lot of bits in it that were impossible to happen in real life so hard to accept but it was written in an interesting way which kept you wanting more of the story.
The characters in the book were well thought out and you could feel scared when the characters were feeling it too.
I would recommend this book if you are a Stephen King fan and know what kind of thing to expect from his stories.
Copied too Ciao under username Harveydog52
Yet another delve into Kings imagination, here he gives us 'Lisey's story', which in totality is exactly what it says on the tin. Again we are placed with a female lead role, an elderly female at that, no one can deny Kings characterisation bounders on the unexpected, but here our heroin never quiet lives up to the stereotypes. Again our perceptions are bent and the societal stigmatisations are left to rest.
Lisey Landon is a widower to yet another famous writer (de ja vu), she has not ever let go of her late husband and when a year has passed she decides to start to try move on with her life.. which leads her to a unexpected adventure, one of affirmation, closure and fear. The way King intertwines the magical with the mundane real world is temprement that his talent has never faded. The characters are strong and believable and never do you feel that you are being retold the same story. There undoubtfully remnants of his older works throught the book, but it has always been King's style to reinvent his other work, overall i found Lisey's story yet another engrosing read which leaves a lot of questions about our perceptions of the world in which we reside.
As an avid reader of Stephen King I always make an effort to read his newer books as soon as possible after publication. The book preceeding this was 'Cell' which I though was an eerily great story, one of my favourite Stephen Kings of recent times in fact.
The books title 'Lisey's Story' refers to Lisey Landon, widow of the world famous award winning author, Scott Landon. As Lisey is clearing out Scott's archives from his study she discovers, and remembers, things from their past that she wishes would stay there.
I have no idea how this book ends as I gave up reading it about a third of the way through. I found it really difficult to 'connect with' Lisey Landon as a character, I didn't really care what happened to her or her husband. I wasn't even interested enough to finish the book. This is the only time I've ever stopped reading a book without finishing it. Regardless of how good or bad it is, I always have to find out what happens at the end (I'm the same when it comes to films). I was really disappointed with this book, it took too long to get the actualy story up and running and by then, I'd lost interest.
I'm currently reading the book which followed this, Duma Key, and I'm far more impressed with it.
After the disappointment of Blaze, I was initially a little reluctant to return to a Stephen King story so soon. However, when I was able to pick up a copy for just 99p, I thought I might as well give it a go. The basic story sees an author's widow - Lisey Landon - trying to come to terms with her husband's death, whilst facing perils of her own, both natural and supernatural.
Initially, my worst fears were confirmed. This almost 700-page tome seemed to return to the worst years of King's books - you know the ones I mean. The Tommyknockers era, when even the author admits he was so out of it on drink and prescription drugs that he didn't know what he was writing. Lisey's story starts off very much like that.
For the first 100 pages, it rambles on and on, seemingly going nowhere. The story is at dull, confusing and at times, just plain weird - and not in a curiosity-pricking way. It leaps around between different time periods in a bewildering way, patching past with present and almost rendering itself inaccessible. Worse still, King (somewhat unusually for him) writes in very long chapters, making it a difficult book to read in small chunks. Indeed, I think this was probably my mistake. At first, I was trying to read this as a "filler book" - a few pages here and there when I had time. As such, my reading of it was very disjointed, and that's how the story came across - bitty and confusing. It was becoming increasingly difficult to like the book.
Persevere, though, and Lisey's story brings its rewards by the bucket load. Partly, this was due to my own discovery that it's a better book if you try and make the time to read longer sections at once: the plot becomes more coherent, the characters' behaviour more understandable and events slowly start to join up and make sense. However, it's still true that the book takes a fair old while to get into the meat of the plot - the parts which regular King readers will recognise as unmistakably his style. I'm not saying that the first 100 pages are irrelevant or should have been edited out - it's just that the relevance of them only really starts to become apparent later on. In fact, far from being irrelevant and dull, these first pages take on a freshness and poignancy all of their own and are crucial to the tone of the book.... once you realise where King is going with the story!
Lisey's story is clearly, in part at least, semi-autobiographical. King has done this in the past with mixed results - The Dark Half was a fascinating tale of the author's battle with his own dark side, whilst his attempts to write himself into his own Dark Tower cycle, just smacked of desperation and pretentiousness. Here; I'm happy to report, it works very well for the most part. The personal nature of the writing adds an extra layer of emotion and depth.
Because, make no mistake about it, Lisey's story is a very personal book. It may have been released to a mass market, but it's clear that King has put a lot of himself into it. The sense of grieving of Lisey Landon is touching and helps to ground the book in reality, no matter how fantastical King's flights of fantasy might become. At its (dark) heart, it's essentially a story about someone trying to come to terms with the loss of a loved one and King conveys some of that sense of grief surprisingly well.
If you're a fan of traditional King horror, don't be put off - there's plenty of his trade mark madmen and monsters to drive the plot along. After the slow start, the book rips along. Get over the hurdle of the opening section and you gradually feel yourself being pulled into it, wanting to use every spare moment to carry on reading to find out what happens next. From being a book you were initially reluctant to pick up, it suddenly becomes one you are reluctant to put down.
I felt this was easily one of King's best offerings for quite some time. Not one of his classics, but certainly a return to at least some sort of form, after a disappointing, self-indulgent run. The slow start may put some people off, whilst long term King fans may bemoan the increasing lack of real monsters or bogeymen in King's newest books. For me, though, they show a writer who has matured and grown. He's moved away from the traditional scares of his early stuff into more psychological works of terror. It may not always come off (some of his more psychological efforts are, frankly, embarrassing), but when it does, it pays off big-time. Having said that, I still think it will disappoint some fans who like his "old-style" writings better.
Equally, it's not going to win King any new readers. Although it's less horror-orientated and more personal than previous books, many people will be put off by his name alone. Even if they do start it, they may be put off by the drawn out opening. And even if they persevere past that, they may find some of the more fantastical elements harder to swallow.
Lisey's Story sees a change in King's writing style. Whether this is permanent, or just something adapted for this novel, time alone will tell. However, he starts to write in longer chapters and longer sentences. His normal short, punchy style is left behind in favour of a more serious and (dare I say it?) literary one. It works well in the context of this novel and adds a lot to it. However, as I said above, it does make it more difficult to read as a simple "entertainment" novel. This is a book to spend some time with, to savour the build up, the development and the pay-off. Do this and you'll find a personal, poignant and surprisingly touching novel. Try and read it any other way, and you'll maybe lose your way with it and find a dull, overblown piece of pretentious writing.
ISBN: 978-0340 89895 6
Available new from Amazon for £4.89 or second hand from 1p
© Copyright SWSt 2008
Lisey's Story - Obsession or Escapism?
I received this book as part of my recent birthday present from my daughter and son-in-law, who know my long-term love affair with King's books. I finished it three days ago and naturally was going to review it. Then I read the other reviews and I must admit that it knocked my confidence to even attempt to write a review. I'm in one of my depressive moods and that shakes my faith in my own writing. However, I thought about it and decided that someone has to stand up and fight in King's corner, even though it might be seen as a losing battle. King has taken some knocks lately, even I found his last book, Cell, a cop-out and I don't like that in my favourite authors. I put the book aside for a few days and thought about other things. But essentially I prefer to review books than anything else, so this is my two pennyworth for what it's worth.
In Lisey's Story, King returns to his usual style of writing that can be either very good, or long and boring. The plot is fairly basic, with overtones of various others of his stories. Why he does this is a matter of opinion. I've read other's views and will add mine later.
Dark Versus Light.
This is how the blurb reads on the back of the book. Quote" Every marriage has two hearts, one light and one dark." Lisa Langdon, (called Lisey for short or long), is the widow of the famous writer, Scott, who has been dead now for two years. Scott had his dark side and Lisey was his light. For twenty-five years Scott managed to keep his dark side hidden from his fans, but now that he's dead there are people who want to dig into his private papers for their own reasons. It soon becomes clear that Lisey is going to have to draw on her own strength to survive the coming threats against her life and that of her sisters. In the words of her late-husband, she has to "Strap it on", in other words to get tough. Things are about to move into the realms of the bad, the "Bad-Gunky" as Scott used to call it. Lisey has problems already. Her dysfunctional family are about to go loop the loop when her older sister, Amanda, self-harms again, culminating in a catatonic state. Before the end, Lisey will go to hell and back to keep her sanity and her life.
Anyone who had read more than one of King's books will know that he tends to do what I've heard as "meandering." He rarely sticks to a linear story, instead events often unfold with the past and present mixed up. It can make reading hard, but at least he does make some effort in this story to categorise certain events under chapter headings. There are fifteen chapters in all and each varies in length, the sub-headings denoted by numbers alone. This does help a little, as the full story unfolds over the whole of the book. It's hard to explain, but part 1 can be in the present and part 2 can hark back to past events. It does annoy many people, but I find it builds the tension up nicely. I don't want to know the history of Scott or Lisey, before the bad man appears on the scene. (Quite early on in this book.) I want to experience the past as it becomes necessary to know, even if sometimes I want to jump ahead, I can't do so. Why I've added this paragraph is to help readers decide if they want to attempt the book, knowing that there is now some way to follow the story.
This is classic King at his best (or worse), depending on how you look at it. His characters are never straightforward, they either have extremely weird backgrounds, or they develop into rich variations of people as they interact with each other.
In this case Scott came from a very dysfunctional family, with some secrets that beggar belief. Brought up to look out for himself, except from when his older brother helped out, he survives beatings, mutilation and estrangement from a normal upbringing. Taught at home, he is able to escape his background by visiting another world, where he learns to adapt to a reasonably normal life. It's hard to explain Scott's character without going into the realms of what may have been fantasy and giving away a lot of the story.
Lisey is harder to pinpoint. At the start of the book she has been a widow for two years and has deliberately forgotten a lot of her life with Scott, remembering only the good times. She has to face up to some harsh realities very quickly though, as her mettle is tested almost straight away. Personally I thought her character was strong from the start, though she is supposed to find her extra strength as she faces some terrifying events. I adored her character, relating to her in more than name alone. (My close friends call me Lise.) I did wonder if King had based her character on that of his wife, but he denies this at the end of the book.
I loved the way she interacted with her family as well. Her own family of sisters are not exactly "normal" either.
Amanda, the sister who self-harms is bossy, difficult to live with and causes much of her own problems. The other sisters are much more superficial and don't have much impact on the other characters.
I emphasised with the character of Amanda (for reasons that I'd rather not say), found her very believable and one of a kind for King.
There are other characters that have some depth and importance to the story, but again, I'm wary of giving too much away.
King's keen eye for the pompous personalities has a field day in this book. There are some cameos with wonderfully appropriate names.
In the long run it's the interaction between characters that made the book for me. King talks about his wife's sisters at the end of the book. He calls it "doing the sister thing" and I know all about THAT!
Very few people love it, some people hate it. One thing you can't do is to ignore it. When he gets up a real head of steam he can knock the socks off any other writer. His descriptions sizzle with meaning, the colours leap off the page in a dazzle of glory and his made-up words become almost a new way of speaking. In fact, I don't give a smuck about what other people think. I LOVE his little asides, the way of pinning someone/something down with a quirky turn of phrase. I am taking the word SOWISA to heart, sorry but I can't explain that one, you'll have to read it for yourself. I recognise that these (nonsensical) Kingisms are words that that leave some readers cold. But aren't some just so appropriate? Remember the words "Dirty Birdie" in the book, Misery? Didn't that just suit the character of Annie to a T?
King has explored the author as a topic for books many times. His heroes are invariably writers or would-be writers. So is the writing "pool" that features in this book as an actual entity in a parallel world. This is not another "Dark Half" though. In fact I am sure that the character in that book was King's own alter-ego and nothing to do with his pen-name of Richard Bachman. It's no secret that he battled for many years against his addictions to booze, prescription drugs and depression. In fact I cried when I read parts of this book, especially about Lisey's sister Amanda. Self-harm, or mutilation is not something that many people understand. King handled this with immense compassion.
Mental health problems are extremely hard to diagnose and even harder to fight. There is a family tendency to inherit this kind of problem. Maybe you think that King has tackled this subject before now? I assure you that never has he put so much personal emotion into a story than he has in this one. However, the outcome is a tale of battling against all odds to overcome a family curse. That King makes this into a physical battle is his way of coping, perhaps. I can't allow myself to judge what I don't know.
In the end, Lisey's story is one of hope. The very real danger of a homicidal maniac out to kill her could easily be taken as a metaphor for drowning under the weight of combined grief and family problems. But the message here is one of redemption and a love so great that it can overcome anything. I'd like to believe in this, wouldn't you?
My Book was part of a birthday present, so I think my daughter might have paid on a special deal for three books. The usual discounts apply for Amazon and can be bought from as little as £5.36 new. probably much cheaper on other sites. I tend to use Amazon as my yardstick as I do buy a few books and other things from their site.
As Always, thanks for reading, even if you don't agree with me.
©Lisa (Lise) Fuller. 2nd April 2008.
After reading the other reviews of this book (Thank god I read the novel before reading any of them) I have decided I might just be the only Stephen King fan who actually loved this book.... but then Cell got very mixed reviews too and I thought that was pretty darn neat too.
This latest novel from King starts when Lisey Landon is clearing out her late husband's study some time after his death along with her slightly estranged sister, Amanda. Her husband was a very successful author and has left behind what she assumes is all manner of unpublished manuscripts and newspaper/ magazine cuttings of all his guest appeareances over the years.
Gradually over the next few days, discovering that her husband has instead left her a paper trail (or Bool-hunt) to follow, Lisey begins to recall some of the memories they shared together whilst simultaneously dealing with firstly the breakdown of her sister when she has one of her frequent "turns"; then a psychotic "fan" who has become obsessed not simply with claiming some of her husband, Scott's unpublished work but more with the idea of claiming it .
This leads to a rather unpleasent scene (that is thankfully cut away from then returned to) with Lisey and a can opener and it is from this moment that the novel begins to take one of King's trademark twilight zone turns away from anything you might, untill now, have been expecting.
This book seems to be remarkably self-indulgent but anyone who thinks King is selling out with this is, I feel, sadly mistaken. All King's usual points of reference are here from Castle Rock through to his T.V adaptation Kingdom Hospital even throwing in sly (almost unnoticeable) references to both The Dark Tower and The Talisman and drawing parallells with both The Territories and the world visited in his earlier novel, Rose Madder. Bag of Bones also seems to lend its influence but none of this came across as a re-hash to me, more a way of making this story more familiar to the fans. I love the whole other-worldly angle King throws into this book and thinks it works perfectly but then the same people who hate this probably hated Insomnia and I thought that to be an amazing novel as well!!
I paid £9.87 or thereabouts in hardback @ Tesco for this book and thought it worth every penny- now available in paperback you don't even have to pay that much but if you are a true, loyal fan of the King then I very much doubt you will be disappointed!!
Those of us who have travelled such a long way with this author (still in my top 3 of all time) shouldn't give up on him so easily....with Lisey's story, he once again proves that he's not quite done with us or his twilight zone version of Bangor, Maine just yet!!
I have seen the future of horror and its name is Clive Barker or it was something like that that the disingenuous Stephen King once complimented his fellow horror/fantasy writer. As Ive traversed the years with my reading in the horror genre, one of the constants spanning those decades has been the phenomenon that is Stephen King. So when I read a recent article that his son - pen name: Joe (Joseph) Hill - was about to break into the big league with his first major novel, I got a sense of dynasty about to move into a new era. In many ways, recent events have tied in with my own feelings that SK had long since gone past his sell by date and, indeed, the only reason I read Liseys Story at all was because my good lady mistakenly assumed that I was still in the habit of reading every single tome to be published by the most famous, populist, literary son of Maine, U.S.A. and bought me the book as a present.
Lisey Landon is the recent widow of the famous writer, Scott Landon. Following his death, she has the problem of dealing with his unpublished works as well as an increasingly regular encounter with his spirit. Stalked by the crazy Jim Doolan who wants carte blanche regarding the rights to her dead husbands work (allegedly, although it appears that he may simply want to maim her for his own ker-azee reasons) and battling with her unstable sisters self harm, Lisey is a woman in an emotional flux faced with real danger as well as the metaphysical story of Scotts tragic past unfolding through her ephemeral experiences with Scotts thoughts and feelings.
Liseys Story is an honorable project. Intended to reflect on a writers metaphorical well of inspiration depicted in the book by the fictional refuge Booya Moon, Stephen King paints a reflective picture of the post apocalyptic output following an important writers death and mashes it into a tale of angst and family friction. Anyone thats read any of Kings previous work will recognise his pre-occupation with spinning a tale about a writers experiences and, in this sense, this latest effort seems as self-referential as ever The Dark Half or any of his other author driven tales were. King delivers in the expected imaginatively gory episodes around both Liseys encounters with the crazed Jim Doolan and the surreal landscape of the Booya Moon and its yum yum trees that hide a dark secret that sits on the borderline of reality and imagination. This is King at his best; suspenseful, imaginative and foreboding especially with the sub-plot about bad gunky and the macabre skeletons in the Landon family closet. To be fair, the story gathers momentum over the last 100 pages or so and the melodrama of the Landon family madness takes the story to its highest peak. Maybe the inclusion of a post war syndrome resulting in a deranged father and an inherited madness reads something like a cross between Platoon and something from the depths of one of Edgar Allan Poes nightmare scapes but the Landon family dramas do provide what interest there is in the book.
Where Liseys Story fails is in its attempt to capture the readers imagination. It took me a good 150 pages to get into the story in a ponderous opening that would make Charles Dickens look like someone that cut to the chase. Written in the third person but predominantly from Liseys point of view, the first two thirds of the book simply fails to catch fire. Like a kindling thats just been rained on, the story threatens to grip the reader but gets lost in that trademark meandering that King so often gets caught up in these days and whilst the reader will sympathise with Liseys character, there simply isnt enough development around the other figures in the book to make you care albeit the Landons may be crazy enough to keep the readers interest through episodes reminiscent of The Shining in their lunacy. The book almost reads like an epitaph for King himself, what with a grieving widow, unpublished catalogue of material worth millions potentially and an imaginary villain that flits in and out of reality who may even follow King to the other side; assuming that there is one of course.
There is no shortage of soap opera in the book. With Liseys ongoing battle to keep her sister - Amanda - sane, the retrospective sexual privation of the Landons time in Germany and the all-American feel of the Maine backdrop, much of Liseys Story will feel familiar to fans of the authors work. In fact, those familiar facets of American collective guilt post Vietnam/Iraq, the dysfunctional aspect of American middle class families and a collective past that nearly always hides a family monster under the bed are all present and correct as the author strays into a work that looks and feels for all the world like a tangential stream-of-consciousness piece that will leave most readers cold and uninspired. At 562 pages, Liseys Story is a long, challenging read that will appeal to die hard Stephen King fans only. For everyone else, to be honest, Id avoid this one. Its slow to catch fire, convoluted and downright boring at times. Perhaps the future has arrived and its name is Joe Hill but only if he writes more exciting books than this one by his father!
Thanks for the read
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
RRP: £17.99 for the hardback. Available at Amazon from £8.99
Critics and 'Constant Readers' alike may well be surprised with Stephen King's latest offering, which has been described as his most personal and honest novel to date, but which is much harder to define in terms of genre and story than his other novels and consequently, quite hard to review.
On the surface, 'Lisey's Story' is about a widow's recollections of her recently deceased husband, Scott, and the emotional journey she goes through to re-establish her place in the world and come to terms both with his absence and her demons about the past. Although she gets the title credit and is portrayed as her husband's saving grace, the real star of the piece is best-selling author Scott; a brilliant but troubled character whose horrific childhood is slowly revealed to us throughout the novel via Lisey's flashbacks and messages he leaves behind for her.
To give us a sense of the present and keep the pace of the novel moving along, we are also presented with a more King-esque sub-plot involving an insanely sadistic fan intent on harassing (and harming) Lisey to get his hands on her husband's unpublished works. Added to this is the love/hate relationship Lisey has with her three sisters, one of which has severe mental problems.
It may sound quite involved for a surface sketch of the plot, but the real complexities of this work run much deeper. I got the sense that the real message behind this story is one of love and the potential power behind a solid marital union. Given the dedication to his wife, you can't help but wonder if King is offering up praise to his own wife for her unseen part in his success. Although their marriage is by no means an easy one, we are given the impression that the love between Scott and Lisey knows no bounds and that it will be ever present even in death. King romanticises this bond further by the inclusion of a shared supernatural other world, which is healing, but which is also potentially harmful to them. Though King insists that the work is not autobiographical, it's quite obvious that he's drawn on his own personal experience both as a writer and a husband in terms of his characters. It's all too easy to assume that the seed for Lisey's character may have stemmed from his thoughts about his own wife following his own near death experience. Having said that, he insists that he is not Scott Landon and, judging from the character's mental state and deeply worrying past, we would hope not.
There's nothing wrong with the basic story idea here, but King's method of telling it seems to have taken a bit of a downward plunge and this is unfortunate because, coupled with his ability to write convincing characters, that's usually where he's at his best. It seems he has thrown every possible device under the sun into this book to give us a emotional rollercoaster ride through themes of violence, abuse, mortality, love, fantasy, madness and grief. It has all the ingredients to be amazing, but in some ways, this is the novel's downfall as it is bitty to the point of incomprehensible. Abandoning the idea that less is more, King has tried to throw too much at you too quickly at the expense of the story and the roundness of his characters. The confusion the reader feels as they try to comprehend what is actually going on in the first 200 pages makes it almost impossible to connect with the characters or feel any kind of emotion for their plight as you find yourself distracted by the jumps between past and present. It is very hard to see comparisons between this and his previous works in terms of structure and language, which is poetic in reference to Scott and Lisey, but littered with what can only be described as babytalk in the flashbacks revealing Scott's childhood, which can become quite irritating. Perhaps the lack of structure has something to do with the fact that he opted to use a different editor this time around. King has nothing but praise for her, but I can't help but wonder what the outcome would have been like if he'd stuck with his usual bloke. All I can say is that if this is the edited version, I cannot begin to imagine what sort of state it was in before!
After the first 250 pages, the novel begins to find its way and the thread of the tale becomes more linear when we are given an anchor to Lisey's present world, which offers a greater insight and understanding into her past. However, it does feel like a case of too little too late by this point and I have to admit that were I not an avid Stephen King fan, I'm not sure I would have persevered. I am glad I did, because the ending picks up and those familiar with his other works will be rewarded with the trademark King writing they signed up for. But, I did feel as though the novel would have benefited from more of Lisey's present world to offset the fantastical memories and supernatural elements. The introduction of the crazed fan after Scott's papers makes for some interesting, if harrowing reading, but it feels as though it is touched upon too briefly, as does the time spent on Lisey's sister's illness. Not only does this detract from the credibility of the supernatural element, the lack of depth to these characters and their actions gives the reader the impression that King didn't know what he was doing with either the story or characters from one page to the next. Those expecting to feel as though they in the capable hands of a storytelling master will be sorely disappointed.
There is no doubt that this novel is one of his most literary to date. It did seem to get better reviews from critics, strangely enough, though I doubt it will win any awards with his fans as neither the language nor the story is particularly accessible. Having said that, babytalk aside, there are some beautifully romanticised phrases which capture the feeling of love perfectly. I also have to admit that although the babytalk grates on your nerves after awhile, the meaning behind it is clarified and somewhat justified if you manage to wade your way through to the end.
To try and sum up this bitty jumble of ramblings (which is not too dissimilar to the style of this novel), I find it a struggle to say how I feel about this book. I normally rush to the shops for the latest Stephen King novel and race my way through it before wanting to start again, but I have a feeling this one may remain on my shelf for a while before I re-read it. I have a feeling I will need to re-read it in order to get a better understanding of those opening 200 pages now I know how it ends, but that doesn't strike me as the sign of a well-written novel. Do not go and buy this if you are expecting a page-turner, as you will be disappointed. For the first time ever with a King novel, I found it quite easy to put down and not so easy to pick up again, but I do feel that the ending is fairly strong, which is often where King's weakness as a writer becomes apparent. Did I enjoy it? Yes and no. I think I found it more interesting and challenging than his other novels, but the occasionally gruesome subject matter does not lend itself to enjoyment. If you like freaky stuff, you might find this intriguing but, for me, it is definitely not one of King's best.
In nearly 18 months in my current job, I have taken lunch away from my desk only once, preferring instead to spend my free time surfing the web. The one exception was earlier this year when Stephen Kings Cell was newly published and I was so eager to read it that I preferred the book to the internet. When Liseys Story was published, I expected to do the same again. Instead the opposite was true; this time, the internet held a greater attraction than the next page of a new Stephen King novel, which doesnt happen very often. Not to me, at any rate.
Lisey Landon is the widow of Scott Landon; a successful and award winning novelist. Finally, a couple of years after his death, Lisey decides its time to clear out his study. As she expected, there are hundreds of memories of her husband in there. What she didnt expect is that her memories would come to life and it would appear that she is haunted by Scotts ghost.
At the same time, Lisey has a couple of other things to contend with. A local college professor, who teaches a course on Scott Landon, appears to have sent somebody to encourage her to leave Scotts workings to him, with force if necessary. Worse still, her sister, who has a fairly long history of mental problems, is experiencing some more of them. But surrounding all this is Scott, who haunts her every waking and sleeping moment and encourages events that Lisey had thought were long forgotten to return to the front of her mind. To the extent, in some cases, that shes virtually reliving them. All the while, she keeps discovering that her dead husband does have a way of reaching her from the grave and sending her on a treasure hunt.
Right from the start, there is something lacking about Liseys Story. Its a trademark of King that he takes a while to get going, often filling pages with unnecessary back story. This time around, the back story is of vital importance to the plot, but it still feels somehow unnecessary. Indeed, instead of the slow start, it feels as if King is trying to fit too much in at once and it all feels just a little bit confused and messy.
Things do improve later on, but the whole thing reads as if it was written in the same way as the treasure hunt that Lisey is sent on from beyond the grave. There are parts that feel like theyre hunting around for a clue as to where to go next and there are parts that made me wonder if King himself really knew what was going to happen next.
For the long term King fan, all of his hallmarks are here. There are references back to characters from his previous novels and his habit of having characters mental asides appearing between the lines continues. But his knack of telling a story, always his great strength, seems to have deserted him here. I thought that something called Liseys Story could well end up in a similar vein to Dolores Claiborne, with a character recounting their life and telling it like a story. This is where Kings strengths can be found, but this didnt end up that way.
It has seemed fairly obvious in recent years that King has been running out of original ideas. From a Buick 8 took many of the same ideas as Christine, while the latter parts of The Dark Tower borrowed from Salems Lot and The Stand. Even Cell, possibly his most original fiction work to date, was essentially a retelling of the old zombie story, albeit with a slightly original twist.
Here, King seems to be rehashing his work of a decade ago, Bag of Bones. Many of the elements appear in both books, with the basic idea of someone being assisted by the ghost of their dead spouse being a main feature. This is where the similarity ends, however, as while Bag of Bones was one of his better written works, as well as one of his most compelling, certainly of recent times, Liseys Story is just a bit of a mess.
Part of the beauty of Bag of Bones is that you really wanted Mike Noonan to come out ahead. There was someone you could really get behind. Liseys Story has none of that. The characters dont seem terribly well drawn and the whole thing seemed strangely devoid of emotion. I got no sense that Lisey was being troubled by these memories, or that she felt any fear when she was being threatened to give up Scotts old papers. All the characters felt as limp and as lifeless as the zombies from Cell.
Having been a fan for so long, I usually read through any new King novel in a rush and can tell before Im half way through if Im enjoying it or not. This time, the opposite was true. Only sheer cussedness kept me reading it, despite the fact that the view out of the window of a London Underground train frequently seemed more appealing. By half way through the book, I wasnt sure if I was enjoying it and even now, having reached the end and had a chance to digest what Ive read, Im still not sure.
There are King books Ive loved and some, albeit in much smaller numbers, that Ive hated. Ive rarely come across one that was so lacking I have virtually no feeling about it at all. This, perhaps, is the one way in which Liseys Story in unique.
What worries me the most is that the kindest thing I can think to say is about the price I paid. Against an RRP of £17.99, both Waterstones and Books etc were offering this for £8.99, which is the amount I paid. Even at this price, its hugely over priced, but I would have been a lot more upset if Id paid toe cover price. Personally, unless you are as mad a King fan as I am, I wouldnt recommend buying this book at all and certainly not until its released and heavily discounted as a paperback. Perhaps most telling is that, just over a week from publication, copies are already on eBay starting from £1.00.
At this point in time, Liseys Story is the only Stephen King book I have only read once. I cant see that changing in a hurry, as I cant see a point at which reading it again will ever appeal to me.
Who would have thought that Stephen King would right another novel about a successful writer and his mysterious sources of inspiration? The inside cover says: Lisey Landon lost her husband Scott two years ago, after a twenty-five-year marriage of profound, sometimes frightening intimacy. Scott was a celebrated, award-winning, novelist. And a complex man. Lisey knew there was a dark place where her husband ventured to face his demons. Boo'ya Moon is what Scott called it; a realm that both terrified and healed him, that could eat him alive or give him the ideas he needed to write and live. Now it's Lisey's turn to face her husband's demons. And what begins as a widow's effort to sort through her husband's effects becomes a perilous journey into the heart of darkness.