Book Review: 11.22.63 by Stephen King

11.22.63 - Stephen King

My King journey continues…

bookdescription

WHAT IF you could go back in time and change the course of history? WHAT IF the watershed moment you could change was the JFK assassination? 11.22.63, the date that Kennedy was shot – unless . . .

King takes his protagonist Jake Epping, a high school English teacher from Lisbon Falls, Maine, 2011, on a fascinating journey back to 1958 – from a world of mobile phones and iPods to a new world of Elvis and JFK, of Plymouth Fury cars and Lindy Hopping, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life – a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

With extraordinary imaginative power, King weaves the social, political and popular culture of his baby-boom American generation into a devastating exercise in escalating suspense.

mythoughts

After reading three fantastic King books this year, I was bound to stumble upon one that didn’t really work for me. 11.22.63 started off great, I was really interested in the story, I don’t read huge amounts of books that feature time travel, but like most literary things, King has mastered it. He created huge amounts of suspense around Jake’s “mission”, and the concept of time travel itself.

“The past is obdurate”

King has you questioning the practicalities of time travel, how the past alters the future, what it means for Jake personally, and who the hell is the “yellow-card man”? – oh yes, there is plenty of intrigue in this novel’s opening. So many questions, no matter how long Jake spends in the past, only two minutes have passed in the present day – that is a concept I can fall into a black hole thinking about. But I have to say my absolute favourite bit of this novel was the reference to IT – the more of King’s books I read, the more I see how he cleverly mentions places and/or characters from his other books, the reference here is done in a way that makes sense within the current story, but 11.22.63 becomes that bit more special if you have read IT – it’s also fun to look out for references to his others books.

Now, where this novel fell flat for me was the entire middle portion. It was slow, lacking in suspense and tension and nothing really seemed to happen. It was a romance between Jake and Sadie and I didn’t care much for it. This novel could have been a good three/four hundred pages shorter than it was, and it would have been more impactful as there wouldn’t have been such a stagnant middle portion.

Things did pick up towards the end of the novel, and it was great to have some of my questions answered, but the ending wasn’t worth the wait. I’d lost so much interest in the plot that when things began to pick up in the last quarter, the tension was back, it was just too late, it wasn’t enough to pull me back in and make me care about what was happening.

I read this novel as part of a readalong, and I was speaking to my fellow readers in the US and we were discussing the possibility that I may have had an initial disconnect with the book as I live in the U.K. To be precise, I live in the U.K. and knew nothing beyond that fact that JFK was assassinated, so the historical accuracy of this novel was lost on me – to the point where I thought Oswald was a character of King’s creation, pure fiction. Maybe, if I was better informed, I may have enjoyed the slower parts of this novel, maybe not….

What I do know is that this has not deterred me from continuing my journey through King’s works. With such a vast backlist, I’m bound to come across the odd weed among the roses. I really like the idea of this novel, using a real-life event that impacted millions, to show the knock-on effect our actions have, it’s just a shame the execution of this one didn’t work for me.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon UK / Book Depository

50 thoughts on “Book Review: 11.22.63 by Stephen King

      1. Ah, it’s unfortunate that your first “interaction” was a disappointment. Enjoying the previous three Kings I’ve read has definitely kept me motivated despite this one. I think King deserves a second chance, maybe with one of his shorter books?

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      2. I don’t know, I’ve only read his big books 🙈😂 but I’ll get back to you on that…. I just don’t believe 11.22.63 is a good/true representation of his work, it’s certainly not him at his best, in my opinion

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  1. I never even realized Stephen King had written anything about the JFK assassination! Interesting. I definitely think the Kennedy obsession and everything that goes along with it has a stronger pull on Americans than it does elsewhere. Excellent review!

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  2. Sorry to hear this didn’t quite work for you. I quite enjoyed it back when I first read it but maybe you’re right in that actually having the knowledge would work better while reading. I did know a bit more than you do.

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  3. Oh I’m sorry you didn’t like it. I really enjoyed it myself. I’ve always been fascinated by the whole JFK conspiracy. You’re right though. There are so many King books and some you will love, some you will hate and some will be just meh. There will even be ones where you’re just left scrathing your head lol.

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    1. If you’re interesting in the JFK conspiracy, I can see why this one would appeal to you. I’ve got soooo much more King to discover. Dolores Claiborne and The Stand are next 🙂

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    1. Haha, I certainly will not be watching the series 😅 A few people in the readalong had actually studied JFK in history class so I’m thinking it was a much more interesting read for them to see what King did with the story. Never mind ay, I’m hopeful for The Stand!

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  4. This is a great review! Thank you for including the note about “It” as no one has ever mentioned that if I can recall. I do wonder if being located in the US does lend a more connective air to the story. I cannot help but feel as much as Iove his work, this may be one I struggle with. I keep putting it off haha.

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    1. I haven’t read much of his work at all [yet] but this one was so different, the middle portion/majority was so un-King-like. I think there’s definitely a historical connective air, especially if you were interested in the assassination, theories and conspiracies 😊

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  5. I read loads of Stephen King when I was much younger and always really liked the references to other books – Gerald’s Game and Delores Clairbone is the one that stays in my mind. This book though is one that does appeal to me, as always this is a helpful review, but the book will stay in my wish list!

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    1. When I announced this one on Instagram so many people commented and said it was their fav King, so you might enjoy it, which I hope you do if you give it a go at some point. Ooo I’m planning to read Dolores Claiborne soon 🙂

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  6. Whenever one thinks a book could be a good 300-400 pages shorter, it is not a good thing! Sorry to hear this one didn’t work so well for you. Sounds like a bit of a departure to previous King books but actually, I have never read him! I do enjoy the movie versions tho…

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  7. Thoughtfully-written review, Janel! I have not read this, but I bought it thinking I would enjoy it since it was different than King’s horror fare. But this book is such a big time commitment, I have not picked it up, and with your valid points, I’m not sure it’ll be worth the time. Maybe one day! 😊

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    1. Awh, thanks for your kind words about my review. Hmmm this is definitely different to his horror books so you may enjoy it, although if you’re looking for something different to his horror, Under The Dome is a good one, and worth the time commitment. Maybe buddy read 11.22.63. I know reading it as part of a readalong kept me on track to finish it in reasonable time 😊

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  8. This one took me a while to read, but i really enjoyed it. I agree that the middle was a bit slow. I do love King’s writing style though, so it didn’t really bother me.

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  9. So sorry you didn’t enjoy this one, but your review is wonderful and very reflective of the novel! I have to admit that this is my favorite King novel, BUT I have never read any of his horror books except The Shining when I was 13 and threw it against my bedroom wall because I was so scared, LOL (and technically it was a DNF). I’ve read this and his Mr. Mercedes books, which I really enjoyed.

    I’m slowly trying to dip my feet in King’s universe since I’m a big baby when it comes to horror. I’ve even been too afraid to watch the movies based on his books and have only seen The Green Mile and 11-22-63 on Hulu, which I watched before reading the book! I don’t mind the length of his books at all; I’m just a wimp, which is weird because the more graphic the psychological suspense or thriller that I’m reading, I love it! I think I just have a picture in my head that I’m going to read one of his books and freak myself out…so….any recommendations to get me started that won’t make me cry?? I’m about to read The Green Mile this month for the Popsugar Reading Challenge-I think that one won’t be too bad, but I’m only basing that on the movie!

    I do think you might be onto something though with the UK vs US disconnect, and I’m a HUGE JFK and Jackie Kennedy nut..like reading bios on both, books on the assassination, watching documentaries, cried my eyes out for days when Jackie Kennedy died (and JFK Jr. omg) …yeah, I’m crazy…so this book was probably much more interesting to me than to you, LOL. I was bawling by the end, hahaha!

    Anyway, fab review!! 🙂

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    1. When I announced this readalong on instagram, many commented to say this was their favourite King book but I definitely prefer his horror. This one seemed to be loved by my fellow US readers in the readalong, a few had learnt about JFK at school, a few from their parents, and they knew all the conspiracy theories so I can see why this one would appeal and interest them more so than me.

      Funnily enough, The Shining was the very first King book I read many years ago, I finished it, it terrified me, but I was way too young to read it, so I’m actually planning to reread it. And then follow it up with Dr Sleep as I’ve heard that’s kind of its sequel. I have the first two books in the Hodges trilogy – once I get the third one, I’ll read them consecutively 😊

      The Green Mile movie was incredible! I have the book to read. But I won’t be watching 11.22.63 😅 I enjoyed the Under The Dome book and tv series, and it’s not horror, so you may like that one. There’s a few of his films I want to watch too. Are you on instagram? I host readalongs for Kings books, usually every other month. Our next readalong is The Stand in August

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  10. I love the references to King’s other novels in his work – not quite the same, but I watched The Dark Tower at the weekend, and there’s a Pennywise reference. Great review 🙂

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  11. As an American, I will have to try this one (and see my take on the middle). I have trying read more Stephen King this past year, so thanks for the review and putting it on my radar! If you haven’t given ‘Firestarter’ a shot yet, I’d recommend it. It is paranormal and one of his shorter ones, but thrilling from page 1.

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