Book Review: The Shining by Stephen King (The Shining #1)

The Shining - Stephen King

With a fancy new Halloween edition published this month, it was the perfect time to reread The Shining.

bookdescription

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 . . .

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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!

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

33 thoughts on “Book Review: The Shining by Stephen King (The Shining #1)

    1. Then I highly recommend this one, ! Needful Things was creepy too, I loved that one also. I host King readalongs on Instagram almost every month, about 10 of us read along and discuss in a DM chat. We’re reading the sequel to this one next month, but will be reading a different King in December – one of his shorter novels. And in January we’re reading Pet Sematary. Feel free to join in whenever, just let me know 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Kerrie! It’s special to me because it was my first King (although at the time, I had no idea who King was), but it’s ranking in the middle of the King’s I’ve read. The Stand is my fav, closely followed by Under the Dome and Needful Things 🙂

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  1. Awesome review! I need to re-read this as well.
    Like you, i also just remember the creepy stuff. I was a teen when i read it, so makes sense, haha 😀
    Hope you’ll like Doctor Sleep too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, a lot of the things Danny dealt with in this novel had me thinking my 12 year old wouldn’t have been able to cope – I guess that’s the leeway of fiction. I have the film reordered as it came on TV the other day, so I’ll watch it soon 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Beth! I think it’s so interesting how our perspectives change over time, I’ve now created a list of books I want to reread. I’ve recorded The Shining film so I’m interested to watch that, especially as I’ve heard King didn’t like it.

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      1. Yes he did moan about it a little bit 😆 some parts are quite different to the book (which maybe he had issues with?) but I thought it was a decent enough film. Apart from Wendy. She is as wet as anything (to me) and HIGHLY irritating! 🤣

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  2. Great review! Like you, I recently reread The Shining. I first read it when I was about 12 and reading it again nearly 15 years later made me realise just how much my memories of it are overshadowed by the movie. I agree when you say Jack Torrance is a morally complex character. I found his final scene with Danny pretty harrowing. He’s trying so hard to fight the hotel’s control over him. Although he might not always go the right way about it, he does genuinely seem to try and do the best for his family and this is something that’s completely and utterly lost in the movie adaptation. I can see why King didn’t like it. Excited to hear your thoughts on Doctor Sleep!

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    1. Thank you! I have the movie recorded, I plan to watch it soon, I did hear King didn’t like it, I guess as an author it must be horrible to see your book turned into a film you don’t like, knowing that millions will watch it and associate it with you!

      I love how our perspectives change over time, so I have compiled a list of books I want to reread, see how my thoughts may/may not have changed over time.

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      1. I think there’s quite a few adaptations of his books that he doesn’t like. I guess whatever he imagined as he was writing the book is never going to be exactly what a director imagines when they read it. I know King despised The Shining movie so much that he actually wrote a mini series in 90s. Apparently the acting’s horrific but apparently it’s supposed to be more faithful to the book. Perhaps one to check out!
        I’m interested to see what you now think of the books that you reread. I’m thinking of maybe rereading the Twilight series because I adored the books when I was 14/15 and I want to see how I feel about them more than ten years later as a full grown woman 😛

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah so that explains why there is a movie and a mini-series!!

        Twilight 10 years on, that would be an interesting comparison! I remember reading the first book, and then I watched the films instead, lol.

        I reread ‘The Color Purple’ by Alice Walker last year, after a 10, or so, year gap – it was a five star read both times. I think some books are great the first time you read them and some are great every time you read them!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic review.

    I loved the film which is probably by far one of the best horror films I’ve watched. I feel a little too scared to read the book, but it sounds amazing and I don’t remember the psychological aspects much in the film, so I’m sure I’ll take away a lot more from the book. Just have to make sure I read it in the daytime. 🙂

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