Review of ‘The Shining’ by Stephen King

It’s a long time since I read any Stephen King. I used to read horror novels quite often but it’s not one of my favourite genres any more. However, I decided to re-read The Shining, to see how I felt about it 15 years on. I think I was ambivalent about the book on the first reading, but this time around I was very impressed. The problem is that the iconic film does get in the way when I try and think about the book.

The story follows the Torrance family: Jack, Wendy and their young son Danny. Jack is a recovering alcoholic whose problems ultimately led him to lose his job as a teacher. He’s also trying to finish writing a play, plus his marriage is in trouble and he’s trying to cope with the guilt of hurting his son. A friend helps Jack to get a job as caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado, where the family will live during the closed season. The hotel’s sinister history, Jack’s worsening mental state, plus Danny’s psychic ability – ‘the shining’ – set the scene for a creeping and atmospheric horror story.

I think this book is so effective because the horrors are not only supernatural, they’re real – domestic violence, alcohol addiction, mental illness, parents’ fears, children witnessing terrible scenes. I was really gripped by it and genuinely frightened at many points. I only had two issues with the book. In common with most other Kings I’ve read (and I suspect, those I haven’t), it’s too long, with some unnecessary details and diversions. 100 pages could have been cut to make the story tighter with no loss of momentum. There are also some repetitions of words and phrases – such as ‘suddenly’ and things being like ‘piano wire’ – which I couldn’t help noticing. My edition had quite a number of typos, too.

Overall, I found this a very unsettling novel and a great example of a book that I liked more on re-reading.

First published in 1977. My copy was published by Hodder in 2011. The copy I read back in 2004 had a picture of Jack’s face on it, inspired by the famous film poster.

12 thoughts on “Review of ‘The Shining’ by Stephen King”

  1. I read this book years ago and some bits were unsettling. What I found amazing was how different the film was when compared to the book. Nice review.

    1. I know, I was surprised (and disappointed at times) seeing how the story and characters were changed for the film, but that’s a Kubrick thing, he does what he likes with the stories.

  2. Great review! I’m definitely going to get around to reading this one, but I do worry that as you said the film may overshadow it as I’m reading it. Looking forward to reading your post on the film, it’s one of my favourites! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thanks! The film is actually quite different to the book, you might be surprised.

  3. This is such a good book, it is such a shame that the film has eclipsed it. I have only seen the film once and that was years ago, but that still overshadows the book that I read about 4 years ago.

    1. I think that’s the way when a film is more famous than the book. Although Stephen King didn’t like the film, it can’t have hurt his book sales ๐Ÿ˜‰

      1. I had heard that as well, and not just about that film either. So does he use it as a sales technique to increase his book sales? Quite clever if that is the case.

  4. I havenโ€™t read this particular King yet, but I think itโ€™s the one Iโ€™d most like to get to! Iโ€™m glad to hear you enjoyed it more this time around.

    1. I’m sure it must be one of his best! And it’s not as long as some others ๐Ÿ˜‰

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