Misery by Stephen King

umber whunnnn yerrrnnn umber whunnnn fayunnnn These sounds: even in the haze.

– Opening sentence

I found this copy of Misery in my local charity shop, and it’s been wedged into my bookcase for at least a couple of years since then.

I’ve only read a handful of King’s work; Rage, The Long Walk, The Shining, and IT. Each one I’ve absorbed with a fierce passion, so, when looking for something to read over the Halloween period, I decided (finally!) to give Misery it’s turn.

And from page one, I was gripped.

Paul Sheldon, a famous writer, wakes up hazily by resuscitation. He’s in a lot of pain, and doesn’t quite remember who he is, let alone where he is. As his brain starts to piece together his memories, he remembers veering his car into a ditch during a heavy snow storm, and the person who resuscitated him was Annie Wilkes, who found him, injured, in the ditch and saves his life.

Almost immediately, we realise that Annie Wilkes is not your average good samaritan. Why is Paul in her room, and not in a hospital?

Annie Wilkes is mentally unstable.
Annie Wilkes is Paul’s number one fan.
Annie Wilkes is very, very dangerous.

What I love about this book is how King drops you straight into the action. It made it easy to emphasise with Paul because, as the reader, I WAS Paul. I was learning about Paul’s predicament at the same time as he was; his memories felt like introductions to his own self, as much as they were introductions to me about him as a character.

It was very easy for me to place myself into Paul’s scenario; he even asked the same questions and had the same thoughts that I was asking; how unstable is Annie Wilkes? what are the options for escape?

Annie Wilkes (I’m using her full name because that’s how she’s referred to in the book) is an excellent villain. Unpredictable and cruel, her character is just as relevant today with the increase (or perceived increase – maybe it’s just that they are easier to read about) celebrity super-fans. It’s the same fear that drove Eminem to write Stan, and a fear even a non-celebrity like me shares: crazed stalkers.

Though Annie Wilkes is not a stalker in the regular sense, it is a cruel twist of fate that Paul happened to be discovered by her. She is obsessed with his series of Misery novels (period romance novels based on a character called Misery) and when she discovers, while he is in her ‘care’, that Paul killed off Misery in the last novel, she forces him to revive her beloved character in a new book written just for her.

As Paul spends his days trying to type a dead fictional character back into being, he knows that his own life hands in the balance of this book; he is literally trying to type himself back into being.

The metaphors and parallels that run throughout Misery are ridiculously clever, and the story itself is ridiculously dark. I went through a series of emotions whilst reading this; shock, repulsion, fear, dread, relief, anger, vengeance – and I relished every second of it. I love a book that has me gripped to edge of my seat, staying up late (or past my allowed lunch break in this case!) and making genuine faces and noises in response to what I’m reading.

I’m starting to understand why they say King is King.

The hole opened and Paul stared through at what was there, unaware that his fingers were picking up speed, unaware that his aching legs were in the same city but fifty blocks away, unaware that he was weeping as he wrote.

– Final sentence

5 Stars (5 / 5)

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