“Does the phrase ‘the shining’ mean anything to you?” – Stephen King’s The Shining
In the spirit of October, Halloween, and all things scary, I decided it was a good time to read my second Stephen King novel, The Shining. This might surprise some of you, but I’ve never seen the movie version. I have seen clips of it over the years and can easily recognize Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance. I’ve been curious about the story for a long time but just recently added it to my TBR pile when I made it part of my 2018 book bucket list lineup. I read my first Stephen King book last year and decided October would be a good time to pick up another one.
I wanted something scary for Halloween…boy did I get my wish!
Fair warning for anyone who hasn’t read the book, there are spoilers ahead. I realize this book has been around for quite some time and many people have either read the book or seen the movie. But I hadn’t, and I feel it’s only fair to warn others who haven’t read it and are considering reading it about spoilers.
I spent the two days after finishing The Shining checking the bathtub, jumping at the howling wind, and leaving the lights on. Yes, this book is indeed one of the scariest books ever written! I’m just thankful it didn’t end up in the freezer! (see video below)
I love this clip because, not only was The Shining my book bucket list pick for October, but Little Women is my pick for November!
So why was The Shining so scary?
First of all, it was a psychological kind of scary. Yes, it got very graphic and a bit gory as the book progressed, but toward the beginning it was more of a “mess with your mind” kind of scary.
Before reading this book, I always assumed “the shining” was some kind of an evil occurrence, an event of sorts. But now I know the shining was a gift (curse?) shared by Danny, Dick Hallorann, all mothers to a degree, and others. Young Danny sees things, hears things, knows things, and has a mysterious “other worldly” friend named Tony. I was curious if this was all really happening or if it was just in Danny’s head. Or maybe it was all in his father, Jack’s, head. Jack, the abusive, alcoholic, recently fired, struggling writer. Unreliable narrator much? Yes, indeed.
Overall, the writing was good. I was drawn into the story right away. I could picture the Overlook hotel set in the mountains in Colorado. I enjoyed picturing past guests of the Overlook during different time periods…the living ones at least! I enjoyed the ghostly/ schizophrenic writing style – when thoughts would pop into a character’s head – thoughts they were sure they didn’t think themselves. Noises, voices, sounds, and music all created a creepy soundtrack to the novel. So initially there was a lot of “is this really real?” kind of thinking going through my mind.
While I thought the story was good overall, I found the end especially satisfying. I was sad that Jack died in the end, but it seemed fitting. It did leave me with several unanswered questions though. Did he really give into the evil? Or did he willingly sacrifice himself for his family? I’d like to believe the latter, but I’m just not sure, though Danny did catch a glimpse of his father inside the possessed body toward the end.
I’m thinking of watching the movie version now that I’ve read the book (thank you Netflix!). But I hesitate because I’ve heard there are some big differences between the book and the movie (aren’t there always?!) Of course, it might take me until next Halloween to muster the courage to watch it!
Have you read The Shining? Any thoughts on the book vs. the movie?