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Misery - Stephen King
Member Name: Carysb
Misery - Stephen King
Advantages: Good Characters, Good Story
Disadvantages: Random chapter breaks
Misery is an extremely clever novel, written by the extremely bizarre Stephen King. King is not an author whose books I would choose to read, but I was loaned this one on the recommendation that I should read it because I would like it. Misery is a character in a story within the novel. Stephen King has written a whole book, 369 pages predominately about two characters, which is quite a feat.
The blurb on the back of this book is very enticing and gives nothing away. Misery Chastain was dead. Paul Sheldon has just killer her - with relief, with joy. Misery made him rich: she was the heroine of a string of bestsellers. And now he wanted to get on to some real writing.
Paul Sheldon is of course an author, the author of Misery, a fictional character who has paid his wages for many years, but who he deemed to be a necessity to subsidise his real writing. Paul is in a place where Misery is now dead and he can move on in his writing career to something more interesting and something new. This novel starts with him finishing his newest effort Fast Cars the best yet. When he takes his only manuscript on a celebratory road trip, crashes his car and mangles his legs.
He is rescued by Annie Wilkes, former nurse with a tendency to kill. Also Misery's (and Paul Sheldon's) No.1 fan. Paul wakes from his comatose states in the company of Annie and after a while realises the severity of his condition. Unable to feel anything other than pain in the lower half of his body he understands that he will now have to rely on Annie for everything. Paul becomes dependent on tablets Novril and Annie happily administers them to control his pain, using them as a tool to bribe him or punish him if he doesn't do as he is told.
The situation he finds himself in leads him to do two things he initially struggles with the most. Burning his Fast Cars manuscript and writing another Misery novel, having felt Annie's wrath when she realised her idol Misery had been killed off in the last volume. He has to bring her back...
As the months pass, Paul learns survival skills to keep him alive as Annie rides the waves of psychosis and depression, from deliriously hysterical to manically depressive to a point where she knows she needs to take herself away and recover where there is nobody to harm. Paul regains strength as he writes his novel and his brain goes into overtime deciding how he is going to save himself from the crazy nurse.
I am still undecided as to how I feel about Stephen Kings' style of writing. I applaud him for continuing such a detailed novel with only two key characters, I was also impressed by the way he included the text of Misery's Return within his writing. However there wasn't enough of Misery's Return to hold my interest, nor was the storyline particularly enthralling.
King also breaks his novel into parts and chapters. The chapters are numbers but some had just a single sentence. What's the point? Many also started halfway down a page and I prefer a new chapter to start on a new page. This maybe a personal preference, but it is definitely my preferred style of dividing the content of a book into manageable pieces.
The text is all written in a size 8 font, which is quite hard on the eyes if you like reading for long periods of time. However the text for Misery's Return is written in a different typed text and later is a script style text when Paul starts writing in longhand.
This helps identify the two different stories, it also changes to identify between the story and Paul's mind. We listen to conversations' between Paul and his thoughts throughout the novel and these are written in Italics and often in a conversational format, also like he is arguing with himself. Towards the end I started to consider whether he was in-fact delusional and that he had envisioned the entire situation due to a decline in his mental health, so good is the writing.
Mental Health is the key theme which runs all the way through this novel. With it coming out in different ways for both of the key characters. Whilst Annie is clearly psychotic, Paul's health declines slowly throughout the year he is in Annie's care, but he can still make clear and rational decisions and still identify when he is in a crisis situation.
Only a small part at the beginning and the end of the book look at Paul's life outside of Annie Wilkes, but this is all the novel needs. We learn so much about Paul Sheldon and Annie, throughout the main section of the book that the rest seems irrelevant.
I would fully recommend trying this book if you like reading Thrillers. If you haven't read a Stephen King book before that may be no bad thing. I haven't seen the film based on this novel and having seen the cast (which includes Kathy Bates) I'm not sure it will appeal to me as much.
If you are squeamish this won't be for you.
Amazon sell this book used from 1p which is a bargain, from new it will cost approximately £3.99 on Amazon, so it would be worth checking out your local charity shops which stock books for your copy :)
Summary: Thriller by Stephen King