By Stephen King, 1987
I finally took time to read the novel Misery. I have always been a huge fan of the film adaptation released in 1990. Knowing that King’s stories always include more punch in the written work than in the film work, I expected this story to be much more intense, creepy and suspenseful in novel format. I was not disappointed on that aspect.
The story is incredibly simple yet entirely multi-faceted and layered in psychopathology, fear, loneliness, helplessness, desperation and motivation. Paul Sheldon, the main character, endures much more abuse, torture and torment from the antagonist character of Annie Wilkes. While Kathy Bates did an excellent job of playing Wilkes in the film, the book character is much more intimidating and unnerving.
The movie follows fairly close to what is written in the book but the amount of pain and fear inflicted on Paul and the various ways this torment is unleashed upon him is unsurpassed by the film. Annie is much more unstable, much angrier and a whole lot more demented than she seems to be in the film. The book allows us to experience of the little things that she does that help inflict terror upon Paul. The various strange, cold, blank expressions on her face at inappropriate times. The random and seemingly unprovoked repeated outbursts and fits of anger. The underlying inferiority complex that obviously plagues this woman day in and day out ironically countered with her apparent feeling of superiority over almost all others.
There were a number of times during reading this that I got chills or caught myself reading with my mouth hanging open in surprise or outright shock. The detail King always seems to employ is beautifully demonstrated in this novel. He expertly captivates and transports his audience directly to the little room in Annie’s house where Paul is victimized daily, giving us a front row seat to the carnage and even putting us right in the midst of it when he wants to. Fantastically gruesome and spectacularly creepy writing sparks the best, and rather disturbing, horror images in the mind of the reader.
I would say there are only two things I wasn’t thrilled with concerning the novel. First would be the ending. I like the film ending better. I’m not going to tell you the differences in the two because I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t read it. The second would be that, in the novel, King includes portions of the book Annie is having him write. For me this inclusion didn’t add anything to the story really and it probably wouldn’t take anything away from the plot if these excerpts were removed. It almost feels like filler material. I can understand why King put it in there. It is part of the story. But the content of the forced novel has only a small bearing on the entire plot of the real book we are reading. A much smaller influence than portrayed in the movie.
Still, I know any King fan would love this book. And those that have a stronger type stomach will also love this book. But if graphic gore and violence upsets you, this is not the novel for you. I have to say though, it’s one of my favorite Stephen King novels that I’ve read so far.