Misery by Stephen King

MiseryWhen I read ‘Carrie‘ and ‘11.22.63‘ a couple of years ago, I said I would like to read more of Stephen King’s other fiction in between his first novel and what was his most recent novel at the time. Originally published in 1987, ‘Misery’ tells the story of Paul Sheldon, a writer who is attempting to move away from his popular series of historical romances featuring Misery Chastain towards serious literary fiction. After being badly injured in a car accident, Paul is “rescued” by Annie Wilkes, a nurse who also happens to be his “Number One Fan”.  However, Annie is devastated to learn that Paul will be killing off her favourite character and forces him to write a new novel where Misery is brought back to life. Or else.

King has now published more than fifty novels and ‘Misery’ remains one of his most famous and well-respected – at least somewhere in the top ten along with ‘The Shining’, ‘It’ ‘Carrie’, ‘The Stand’ and ‘Pet Sematary’ – and deservedly so. At the heart of the story is a fairly simple but effective concept which isn’t overdone and explores a number of other themes including addiction, obsession and the craft of writing novels. Although King is well-known for writing a number of very long books, ‘Misery’ is the perfect length and even though the story takes place over a number of months, King maintains the suspense well throughout.

Most authors would consider the threat of writer’s block or scathing reviews to be  the most terrifying things that could happen to them but the torment suffered by Paul at the hands of Annie Wilkes may force them to reconsider their priorities. That said, while ‘Misery’ certainly features a fair amount of violence, it’s also a thriller which has broader appeal beyond the horror genre which King is famously associated with. The creepiness of Annie’s character and the psychological effect this has on Paul is written very effectively and there are even some glimpses of dark humour as he tries to fathom her unpredictable behaviour.

‘Misery’ is more subtle and less violent than I had expected but still very chilling. As King has managed to publish four more novels in the two years since I read ‘11.22.63’ – despite claiming a few years ago that he can no longer write at the same pace as he used to – it seems unlikely that I will ever read anything close to his complete bibliography. However, having recently watched Stanley Kubrick’s famous film adaptation of ‘The Shining’, it’s likely that when I do revisit King’s work, his third novel will be next on my list.


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16 responses to “Misery by Stephen King

  1. I haven’t read this yet but I do admit to watching the movie which, by the way, is quite good. Nicely done on the review.


  2. I never got through this book — people being tortured in captivity freaks me out too much, though I can handle all King’s other books just fine! I just finished Joyland, which I loved.


    • That concept freaks me out too! I only ever read an excerpt of Carrie, and was riveted by the way King portrayed her suffering at her mother’s hands. King is a very talented writer and has such an understanding of the way our worst fears are the ones that grip our imaginations. Unfortunately I can’t get over my fear of horror enough to get more into him, but at least this review made me appreciate him a bit more without having to read him.


  3. I’ve been trying to read more Stephen King too, and have been meaning to get to this one. I hadn’t realized it was one of his most famous ones!


  4. I’ve never been a big fan of King, but I do keep going back to him to give him more chances to change my mind. I think Misery is his best and embodies a lot of the best aspects of pop-fiction (my review here: http://rants-n-raves.com/2014/02/10/book-review-misery/)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Col

    I’ve had three false starts with Stephen King – I just don’t get it. But reading your review makes me think I might have started every time too far down the horror-genre spectrum. If I can get myself motivated for Stephen King part 4, I will try ‘Misery’!!


  6. I’ve been trying to read more Stephen King, although I think my dad has read all of his work up to the end of The Dark Tower. I remember we used to have a bookshelf that was full of nothing but Stephen King novels when I was a kid, although they have since been donated so I keep getting them from the library a couple at a time.

    I haven’t read that many (yet) but I have read Misery and I loved it. It get me the creeps from start to finish. The movie is also really good and pretty chilling.

    I’ve yet to read the shinning but I’d give Joyland a go. I devoured that one.


  7. Thanks for this review – I think I’ll add Misery to my to-read list. So far I’ve only read Carrie and Salem’s Lot, but I have The Shining waiting on my desk.


  8. I thought his book On Writing was brilliant, but I’m not a fan of anxiety-provoking reads, so I think I’ll give his fiction a miss.


  9. Love Misery, I recall it disturbing me when I was a teenager, I recently re-read The Shining, after reading the sequel Doctor Sleep, both chilling tales. I particularly like King’s Macabre explanation of himself, “People think that I must be a very strange person. This is not correct. I have the heart of a small boy. It is in a glass jar on my desk.”
    Happy reading !


  10. Marie

    Misery is terrifying. I seem to remember reading somewhere that it was based on one of his own greatest fears. Maybe that’s why it’s so scary.


  11. Pingback: World Book Night: Top 10 Books for Reluctant Readers | A Little Blog of Books

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