With a fancy new Halloween edition published this month, it was the perfect time to reread The Shining.
One of the true classics of horror fiction, THE SHINING is regarded as one of Stephen King’s masterpieces.
Danny is only five years old, but in the words of old Mr Hallorann he is a ‘shiner’, aglow with psychic voltage. When his father becomes caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, Danny’s visions grow out of control.
As winter closes in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seems to develop a life of its own. It is meant to be empty. So who is the lady in Room 217 and who are the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why do the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive?
Somewhere, somehow, there is an evil force in the hotel – and that, too, is beginning to shine . . .
The Shining was the first King book I read, almost ten years ago; shockingly, it was only recently I learnt that Doctor Sleep was its sequel, so in preparation for reading the sequel, I decided to reread The Shining. As soon as I read the first chapter, I was surprised by how much of the story came flooding back to me after all this time, and despite remembering so much, I was gripped.
What’s interesting is, the first time I read this book, I found it incredibly unsettling – downright scary at times! However, on the second read, I didn’t find it that unsettling, arguably because I was prepared for what was to come, but also, because this time I was focused on the psychological factors. This plot centres around five-year-old Danny Torrance, and what really stood out was how emotionally heavy the ‘goings-on’ would be for a boy of his age. His parent’s troubled marriage, his father’s alcoholism, trauma, and mental health – strong themes in a novel, and psychologically heavy things for any five-year-old to deal with. But this is King, and if anyone is capable of weaving these themes into a supernatural tale, it’s him! However, I have noticed King tends to write his child characters as much older than their years, I found the same was true of the children in It, I had to keep consciously reminding myself that Danny was only five.
As mentioned, this reread really allowed me to focus on the psychological factors of this novel, and I really appreciated how morally complex Danny’s father, Jack, was. The same of Danny’s mother, Wendy. And that’s what made this novel psychologically thrilling, neither parent was all good, nor all evil, and this showed the mental battle people can have with how they feel about themselves, and with their feelings for other people. There is no peace at the Overlook Hotel, and the Torrance family find out just how easy it is to succumb to the darkness and isolation – how fragile the mind really is.
King is renowned for introducing far too many characters, usually far too soon, into his novels (something that works really well for him), but what he’s done in this novel is given you minimal characters, allowed you to become obsessed with the life and wellbeing of the Torrance family, particularly Danny. As events unravel, you fear for everyone’s sanity – the first time I read it, I feared for my own too!
Regarding pacing, the beginning and the end were the most gripping, the middle of this novel came in waves of interest. However, I suspect that may have been because it wasn’t the first time I was reading it; I was gripped throughout the first time, so it’s fair to say I enjoyed this novel much more when everything was new to me. But, I am glad I reread it as I can now read Doctor Sleep with a fresh memory of all that came before.
I never really like to detail too much about the events that occur in a King novel because I believe all of his books are an experience, a journey, and sometimes it’s best to leave the reader to reach that destination without telling them about the pit stops along the way. First published in 1977, The Shining is a dark tale of horror, one that I recommend – meet Danny Torrance, a five-year-old boy who has ‘the shine’, and do enjoy your stay at the Overlook Hotel!