Read and Review [+ Film Review]: The Shining

Read and Review [+ Film Review]: The Shining

Book Review

The Shining (1977) is a paranormal horror by Stephen King. When Jack Nicholson becomes caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, he moves his wife Wendy and five-year-old son Danny there as well. Although just a small boy, Danny has unusual psychic abilities – known as having a ‘shine’. As winter approaches and numerous blizzards cut the Nicholson family off from the outside world, the hotel appears to have a life of its own, causing dangerously scary visions and voices to play inside their heads. It looks, as The Shining’s book cover says, as if the hotel itself is ‘beginning to shine’.

King himself critiques The Shining – a skill I think all writers should posses – in his introduction, and comments that:

‘The result [of Jack’s character] wasn’t perfect, and there is a cocky quality to some of The Shining’s prose that has come to grate on me in later years, but I still like the book enormously’

I liked The Shining enormously too; Jack became a scarier and scarier antagonistic force, motivated not just by supernatural beings but by the haunting memories of his own abusive upbringing. The animal-shaped hedges seem to come to life, moving behind their backs, hunting the family so they can’t escape.*

*This reminds me of my favourite Dr Who villains, The Weeping Angels.

Whilst the narrative perspective did often change, (in true King style) because the Overlook Hotel is so isolated, the narrative mostly alternated between the only three tangible characters: Jack, Danny and Wendy. I thought these provided a much deeper insight to the thought processes of each character which is especially beneficial in a psychological novel about the powers of the mind as well as problems of the mind.

Although Hallorann’s involvement, particularly at the beginning of the novel, was useful at providing the reader with explanatory information about ‘shining’ abilities, he felt very much like an outsider and at times he felt like just a plot device.

 My one main criticism is a minor one.

In his last few pages, King uses the adverb ‘suddenly’ three times in the space of three sentences. If I recall correctly, he asserted in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000) that ‘suddenly’ is quite a lazy way of describing a given event. Maybe he formed that opinion upon reflection of The Shining, or maybe he included them purposefully for effect. Either way, I had trouble taking that last passage completely seriously, because of the way multiple ‘suddenlys’ were included. It’s quite a petty criticism, but I’m an English student and writer, so I can’t help but notice language or grammar that bothers me.

Overall, I quite liked The Shining, and would definitely recommend.

Film Review

I recently watched the 1980s film adaptation directed by Stanley Kubrick – a film, interestingly, King can’t stand! After watching it, I had lots of initial thoughts I just had to write down:

Negatives

1) As an adaptation of the novel, it is seriously lacking. Whilst an adaptation is not limited to religiously following every page of the source material, I would expect the core plot to be as similar as possible. However, Kubrick departs from this; there were multiple blatant changes or omissions from the book, which I felt detracted from the narrative of the film. For example, King’s Jack descends into insanity by mixing the the grisly and ghostly past of the Overlook Hotel with his struggles with alcoholism and abuse, whereas Kubrick’s Jack is introduced to the audience in a way that suggests he is already unhinged.

2) Wendy (played by Shelley Duvall) is such a pathetic character. She does nothing but scream or cry, and it was just tiring to watch. King refer to her as ‘one of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film […] that’s not the woman that I wrote about’. (IndieWire).

3) The ending left me unsatisfied, mainly because it was so different to King’s ending, and there was no clear resolution. However, this might also have its benefits: it raises lots of questions for the audience, mainly questions about what (and who) is real and what (and who) is purely hallucination. As my friend Florence commented, ‘The fact it raises so many questions is why I love it so much.’*

*Florence’s favourite film happens to be The Shining.

Positives

1) The musical score was brilliant; the tension was consistent throughout, by the raising or lowering of volume and the use of string instruments. The level of tension, even when there were no sudden movements or “jump scares”, was refreshing in comparison to modern horror, where the format seems to be nothing more than building up tension until the next “jump scare”.

2) Although King wasn’t overwhelmed by Jack Nicholson’s performance as Jack Torrance, I thought he was superb. He looked and sounded like a convincing, raging psychopathic and he was by far the best casting choice.  I may be somewhat biased in this opinion as, before reading The Shining, I had seen a few clips – like the infamous “Here’s Johnny” scene – and so even when reading the book, it was Nicholson I pictured.

3) Some of the cinematography was stunning. One example of this are the tracking shots used to follow Danny’s tricycle around the hotel. The transitions are smoothly executed, and incredible attention to detail is given to the sounds of his tricycle. We hear him cycle over wood flooring noisily, he passes over a rug (suddenly making it eerily quiet), then he cycles back over the flooring. A second example is when (minor spoiler here) Jack is trapped in the pantry. The audience are left looking up at Jack, as he fights against the door; we see his nostrils flare, his eyes widen, and his muscles work to free himself – all while he looms over the camera in a domineering stance. Clever film techniques such as these are a Media Studies student’s dream (a dream I left behind at A Level sadly) and The Shining is certainly a well-crafted film.

My Photo [The Shining]
A still taken from the film.

Approaching the film with an analytical and psychological thriller perspective, I think The Shining is fascinating and for that reason I enjoyed it. However, as an adaptation dubbed the ‘scariest horror film ever’ (The Independent) and based on a fantastic novel, for me, The Shining falls short.

Thank you for reading!

Please click ‘Like’ if you enjoyed this post or click ‘Follow’ for more reviews and other book or film themed blog posts.

– Judith

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (4)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (4)

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

I’m reading a non-fiction, Shooting History, by Jon Snow – an autobiographical account of modern history and journalism Snow was involved in. I’ve also been sent another book to read for Rosie’s Book Review Team, The Devil In The Countryside, a historical thriller by Cory Barclay. I’m also reading another free book to review – Being Simon Haines, by Tom Vaughan MacAulay.

It’s also exam-season, so as a form of revision, I’m aiming to re-read texts that will be covered in my exams. Here’s how I’ve got on so far:

2. What did you recently finish reading?

I read so much over the Easter break! I read The Seagull, a play by Anton Chekhov, as well some more Stephen King novels of course – The Shining and The Tommyknockers. I also finished the thriller Perfect People by Peter James, as well as The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. I also received a new book, Commune: Book One, to read and review for Joshua Gayou, a new author.

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

As I really enjoyed Perfect People, I want to explore the works of Peter James, and the thriller genre as whole, further. It would also be nice to read some more classic literature as well.


What are you currently reading?

– Judith

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (3)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (3)

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Finders Keepers by Stephen King, as well as The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy; if you’ve been following my other WWW posts you’d know I’ve been planning to read this particular Hardy book since February. I only have two books on the go at the minute, which is allowing me to get through both books at an excellent pace.

2. What did you recently finish reading?

If I remember rightly, I finished reading two reads: Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, 11.22.63 by Stephen King. However, I’m sorry to say I’ve also given up on not one, but two books. I’ve abandoned To The Lighthouse by Woolf (in fact, I’m not at all sorry for giving up on this one, it was a disastrous book for me to try and get into) as well as The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. Whilst I had read some the stories and found them amusing, I just wasn’t engaged enough to want to commit top reading the entire thing just yet.

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

I honestly don’t know – at present I don’t have a burning desire for any other books in particular, but I’m sure that’s bound to change.


 What are you currently reading?

– Judith

Read and Review: 11.22.63

Read and Review: 11.22.63
  • Title: 11.22.63
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Published: 2011

11.22.63 is about Jake Epping, a recently divorced high school English teacher, who discovers a wormhole in his friend’s diner. The wormhole transports him to 1958, where Epping begins to adjust to 1950s life, as well as plot to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which happened on the 22nd of November, 1963.

It’s hard to summarise the genre of this novel. I think it’s an interesting combination of science fiction, historical fiction, political dystopia and alternate history. Although I don’t profess to be a science-fiction fan, I really enjoyed the science-fiction elements of this book, because they were not too abstract for the common reader to understand – they felt normal and believable, which I think is rare in books that tend to focus on time, space, aliens and everything in-between.

I also liked the historical and political themes; I studied American presidents as part of my A Level History course, and 11.22.63 provided a decent recap of this. It was also interesting to consider the repercussions of each and every seemingly small action had in the “grand scheme of things”.

Furthermore, despite 11.22.63 being set in a world a further 50 years in the past, the questions it raises are still just as significant today:

  • If you could change a terrible event in the past, not knowing the future consequences, would you? What if this triggers an equally horrific event later in time?
  • Is it better to learn from the past, rather than try and undo it?*

This reminds me of the famous quote by the philosopher Santayana: ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’. (Reason in Common Sense, 1905), p. 284

I also liked the length of the novel. It’s a big read, and took me a sizeable amount of time to get through, but I was kept captivated throughout and I was glad I had so long to enjoy the book for.

However, I thought there was an unusually high amount of explicit violence in the book – punches, stabbings, broken noses, and gun fights. I’ve read some of King’s horrors that do have high levels of bloody violence in, so on the one hand, this isn’t an unexpected feature in King’s writing. On the other hand, I naively thought those sorts of scenes would be unnecessary and therefore omitted from a non-horror book.

For me, the best part of 11.22.63 was the intertextual references to another of King’s books, IT, which is also set in 1958’s America, and the last King book I read, so I feel like I’m reading his books in some kind of weird order. I completely forgot that IT was set in this timeline, and to be drip-fed clues and references to another plot was really entertaining, although this isn’t a huge feature within the narrative of 11.22.63.

I also found the ending incredibly powerful; it’s rare for me to be strongly moved by a book’s ending (especially as most of them seem to end on cliff-hangers nowadays…) but I felt so sad for Epping, and the Dystopian America portrayed. I won’t spoil the ending for any who may wish to read it, but I was certainly affected by it.

I strongly recommend this book.

– Judith

Please click ‘Like’ or leave a comment, I really appreciate it.

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (2)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (2)

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

My current fiction reads are: 11.22.63 by Stephen King – this is carried over from last month’s WWW post, because it’s a huge read – as well as The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence and To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.

2. What did you recently finish reading?

Since my last WWW post, I feel like I’ve finished a lot of books. I’ve finished The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde, and The Man In The High Castle, by Philip K. Dick, both of which I’ve now written blog posts about. I finished Child Taken and The Old Man At The End Of The World, two brand new works sent to me to read and review by two new authors making their debuts. I’ve also been reading various short stories and poems by D.H. Lawrence*, and I’m really enjoying his style of writing.

*Hence my starting Lady Chatterley’s Lover – I already have opinions of this book forming, and a book review will almost certainly follow once I’ve finished reading it.

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

I’ve bought some more Stephen King books (I honestly don’t know why, I’ve got plenty that I haven’t read already, and I haven’t even finished 11.22.63 yet), so I’d like to get round to reading them. I’d still like to read some more Thomas Hardy too, but it’s incredibly difficult fitting everything in, with what I need to read for university as well.


What are you currently reading?

– Judith


WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (1)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (1)

This is my first ever WWW Wednesday post!

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

I try and keep my Goodreads ‘Currently Reading’ shelf as up-to-date as possible. This can be quite a task, as I have a habit of reading multiple books on the go! My current fiction reads are: The Eyre Affair (Jasper Fforde, 2001), 11/22/63 (Stephen King, 2011) and The Man In The High Castle (Philip K. Dick, 1962). I’m also reading some non-fiction Christian books, as well as some literary criticisms on the side. I’m certainly a busy bee.

2. What did you recently finish reading?

I finished reading Lady Susan (Jane Austen, 1871) – I plan on writing a blog post on this soon – but the other most recent text I finished reading was The Wife’s Lament, an Old English poem, about loss, love and lamenting (I wanted to alliterate). I recently published my “book review” of it too, which you can find here:

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

Hopefully next month I’ll have finished my mountain of current reads, and moved on to some other books. I’d like to read The Mayor of Casterbridge (Thomas Hardy, 1886) at some point.


Thanks for reading!

Have you read any of my choices? What are you currently reading?

– Judith

Ringing In The New Year Book Tag

Ringing In The New Year Book Tag

New year, new book tag. I found this on tinyobsessions.wordpress.com and I thought it was appropriate, given it’s January. I’ve chosen my favourite questions to answer.

1. What was the best book or series you read in 2016?

I’d say my favourite book was something by Gillian Flynn. Despite really enjoying Gone Girl, I read Sharp Objects more times – at least two or three times last year.

2. What authors have you recently found and would like to read more of in 2017?

I’ve got 3 authors to choose from: Stephen King, Agatha Christie, and C.S. Lewis. I read some of their books the first time this year and I really enjoyed them. If you have a favourite book by this author, please leave a comment with it below and I can add your recommendations to my TBR!

3. What is your most anticipated book-to-film adaptation?

I don’t really know what is coming out this year, apart from Trainspotting 2. I think I’d like to see some more good period dramas on the BBC. They really help me read and understand classics better.

4. What are the top 5 books on your 2017 TBR?

I have far too many books on my TBR to pick a top 5! I’d say Finders Keepers and End of Watch, the sequels to Mr Mercedes by Stephen King. I also want to read some more Dystopian books, so I’d like to read The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick.

5. How many books do you hope to read in 2017? 

I worked out that in 2016, I read about 70 books which is absolutely crazy. I’d like to hit the same number again this year, or maybe beat it – perhaps I’ll aim to read 80 books?

6. Do you have any book or blogging themed resolutions?

A blogging resolution would be that I’ve considered doing some more creative writing. I’d also like to be able to read more for leisure, or at least get the balance right between reading for my studies and reading for myself.

Happy New Year! (Is it too late to still be saying that?)

Please ‘Like’ if you enjoyed this little book tag; what would your answers to these questions be?

– Judith