Book Review: Stephen King’s Misery

Many things still remind me of Bassie; another lifetime, another universe, a million and one dollars in my bank account and we would be married. She doesn’t know it, but I was that in love with her.

She was not only an avid reader, she was a quick reader. Used to go through a whole novel in a single day, and this was one of her all-time favourite books from her all-time favourite author. She had read all his books, even those he wrote under an alias Richard Bachman.

One time she visited my place with a copy and left it for me to read. We broke up shortly afterwards; it was such a messy breakup, I could not return the book because she had not only bought herself another copy she also did not want to talk to me.

I had not read it and I moved around a lot at the time. I misplaced it somewhere in the many boxes that followed me around in my troubled travels. I was always going to read it, but now I could not find it anymore. I bought a new copy, only to discover the old one a few months later. There were now three copies of Stephen King’s Misery with my name on them. It is a book that not only stalked me, but also held me hostage. I really wanted to find the —

— international bestselling author, Paul Sheldon, who had just finished writing what he felt was his best book so far, one that would win him the American Book Award the following year, set out to travel towards the western part of the US – Vegas, Reno or even the City of Angels – to celebrate this milestone when he was caught in a snowstorm in Colorado.

In a wicked twist of fate he was rescued from his overturned ’74 Camaro by one of his many female admirers, Annie Wilkes, who took him to her farm and nursed him back to life.

Annie had read all his eight books, but thought none were as good as the four books that made up the Misery series. Each time Paul Sheldon would veer off track and write a book other then the Misery series his hoardes of fans would write him somewhat hostile fanmail expressing their disappointment that he had not continued with the story of Misery Chastain.

When Annie kept Paul hostage she was still reading the latest of Paul’s Misery series, Misery’s Child, and was pleased that it looked like Misery would finally get married to Ian. And that Ian and Geoffrey would mend their friendship.

Among many of Paul’s belongings Annie managed to rescue in the road crash was his latest manuscript, Fast Cars. Annie refers to it as the “manuscript-book”, and because it wasn’t about Misery Chastain she hated it. She hated that the main character was not as cultured as Misery had been, that he used vulgar words and that Paul’s style of writing had changed to suit the plot of his new “manuscript-book”.

Annie held Paul captive and cared for him just enough that he doesn’t die, all the while she kept a very sadistic and domineering relationship with him while she read both Misery’s Child and Fast Cars and ordering him to continue writing to her satisfaction.

There’s a little bit of Zakes Mda in Stephen King, he is in the habit of setting the scene and make you see every detail as if you were there yourself. Almost as if he is not only telling a story, but using his words to paint a picture. Quite an artist thing, but it does sometimes get out of hand and make the story feel all over the place. The book does feel slightly disjointed in places because he is an author writing a book about an author writing a book. A bit of an overkill, if you ask me.

Misery is a psychological thriller, bordering not only on the emotional torment but also downright physical abuse. It is quite graphic and disturbing, yet at the same time enjoyable if you don’t mind a bit of blood here and there. And because Annie has a nursing background, some parts of this book are reminiscent of Robin Cook’s works with an added element of narcissism. Stephen King’s use of imagery in this instant classic is as unmatched as Leigh Nichols’ unparalleled metaphorical prowess in the supernatural thriller The Eyes of Darkness . You would not be a serious horror fiction lover if you never gave Stephen King’s Misery a read.

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