Review: The Shining by Stephen King


Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote…and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old. 


I calculated how long I have been trying to read The Shining, and it has taken me almost 30 years to finally get through this book. I know that some people say that this is the pinnacle of Stephen King’s bibliography, and it is undeniable that this is firmly planted in the zeitgeist of American Horror culture, where I could say REDRUM to anyone and they instantly know what I am referring to, but the novel is a slog. I love the story, but it took so long for me to get through the whole thing. 

When I was a teenager, my inability to get into The Shining was mostly the focus of King on Jack Torrance being an alcoholic and a father. These two things were things I could not relate to. This time (which is about my fourth attempt to read it), I was not interested in Jack Torrance and his struggles to be a decent human being. He is a jerk, Wendy is an enabler, and Danny is wise beyond his years at five. When they enter the Overlook Hotel, the hotel sees them as vulnerable and easy to manipulate to it’s will. 

My favorite character is the Overlook Hotel. I like that it is filled with ghosts and demons. I know that critiquing a classic novel is like nailing Jell-O to a wall, but I think that I would have been more interested in this if King shifted the story from the Torrance family to the hotel much quicker. The outcome is foreshadowed like a brick to the head, but it would have also been interesting if the Hotel also used more for self preservation on the inside, like the topiary animals were doing on the outside. The hotel has more character and charm than the actual family it is after.

This is a hard critique, and I know that it really does not matter. Everyone loves The Shining  in one form or another. I can say that I have seen Kubrick’s version of the book so many times that I almost prefer it over the book. Maybe it is because it is the version of the story that I am familiar with and comfortable with, or maybe it is because it cuts out a great deal of Jack Torrance spending time wanting to drink. Either way, I did read all of Jack’s dialogue in the voice of Jack Nicholson, and this makes me think that there is no other person who could ever be Jack Torrance.  I will most definitely watch the movie more, but I will most likely never read the book again. This might be some people’s favorite classic King novel, but I think there are much better novels by him than this one.

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