11588About The Shining

(which I originally typed as The Shinning which isn’t at all frightening unless you played hockey at school, that is)

Anyway, about The SHINING:

Danny was only five years old but in the words of old Mr Halloran he was a ‘shiner’, aglow with psychic voltage. When his father became caretaker of the Overlook Hotel his visions grew frighteningly out of control.

As winter closed in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seemed to develop a life of its own. It was meant to be empty, but who was the lady in Room 217, and who were the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why did the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive? Somewhere, somehow there was an evil force in the hotel – and that too had begun to shine…

When did I first read this? 1977, as soon as it came out in NEL paperback, having loved both Carrie and (still my absolute favourite) ‘Salem’s Lot.

What age was I? 15

How many times since then? Apparently this is the third time I’ve read this and the first time since 1983.

Thoughts about the book:

By the time I read The Shining I was a committed Stephen King fan, and the idea of a small boy trapped in an old hotel with his parents for a whole winter troubled by things that go bump in the night (but also in the day, let’s not forget those hedge animals) was intriguing to me. I think I expected a classic ghost story and that’s partly the case, but as always with King there is so much more there – the sensitive child with the troubled father and the mother who is not sure about the security of her family, the spectre of alcoholism and writer’s block all brewing in a building with a long and frightening history. It was bound not to end well.

I think The Shining is a good example of a child protagonist who manages to be convincing, not understanding what’s going on in the adult world but able to pick up on the complex and contradictory emotions of his parents, knowing how important the job is to his father and so not wanting to talk about the stuff he is experiencing until it’s all too late. I had forgotten how evenly spread the story is between Jack and Danny, and with big chunks being devoted to Wendy and Halloran as well. A properly haunting story with limited amounts of gore and some really frightening and dread-inducing imagery.

It’s very interesting to go back to a book after a film version has been released. I have lots of issues with the Kubrick film (and most of my friends disagree, at which point it becomes clear that they have never read the novel, so what do they know?). First off it’s worth saying that in many respects it’s a great Kubrick film, but not a great King adaptation. I find it just too unbalanced, focusing so much on Jack (Nicholson) Torrance that you forget this is largely Danny’s story. I had forgotten for example that one of Jack’s irritations at the Overlook is that it is using him to get to Danny and doesn’t really want him at all, and I don’t remember that coming across in the movie. The biggest problem I have of course is with Wendy, who has so much more agency in the book than she does in the film, and I just hate the ending of the movie.

So although it took me longer than intended to re-read (I was doing so for The Horror Book Club but realised I couldn’t make the meeting and so slowed down) I really enjoyed it, especially the last 25% when the tension really builds up.

And of course there is a sequel, Doctor Sleep, which I read and reviewed here.

Advertisements