I don’t remember how old I was when I first read The Shining. It was definitely toward the beginning of my Stephen King obsession, because it was a title that was already familiar to me, and something I felt comfortable buying. Both my parents recommended it as well, which was cool, because I was young and most of my taste in books didn’t really coincide with my parents’. They also recommended the movie, but the movie sucked, at least compared to the book (which is my usual stance). The miniseries was great, though. But I digress.
Anyway, The Shining is the story of Jack, Wendy, and Danny Torrance, a young family on the verge of falling apart. Jack, an alcoholic and an aspiring playwright, had a successful job at a Vermont prep school before he was fired for violently beating a student. Jack’s rage lies close to the surface, and his life only slides further downhill when he decides to live a life of sobriety—now there is nothing to temper his fury. He takes a winter-long caretaking job at the Overlook Hotel in the mountains of Colorado, bringing his wife and son with him.
However, five-year-old Danny has a gift. His parents are unsettled but not overly concerned about Danny’s uncanny ability to understand or know certain things without being told; however, Danny’s power is quite beyond what they realize. They also fail to realize—almost until it’s too late—that the Overlook has some sinister power of its own, and is intent on absorbing Danny’s. Finding Danny too difficult to possess, the hotel begins to work through Jack, gradually overtaking him until the malevolent spirits finally force him to attempt to kill Wendy and Danny.
Although I love Stephen King, I’m honestly surprised to find him on The List. It was also something of a surprise to me to find that The Shining was his one book to make The List; but since it was his first hardcover bestseller and also probably boasts the most successful movie adaptation of any of his books, I suppose it makes sense. And I did really like The Shining, which is part of why I thought the movie was so terrible.
It was very interesting to watch the deterioration of Jack Torrance, both from outside perspectives and from inside his own mind. It’s important to note that he doesn’t start out totally crazy—he’s violent, yes, and an alcoholic, but he strives to be better than that, despite how terrifically difficult it is for him. He doesn’t want to be the way he is, and I always found it admirable that he does try to be a better father and husband. Even though he ends up being a slave to his—and the hotel’s—impulses, he fights mightily not to bend.
There isn’t a lot I can say other than that it is a really good horror story. The suspense builds until you feel like you’re as tightly wound as a coiled spring—and then releases, but not all the way. Eventually, this tension builds up so completely that there’s no release, and it’s impossible to put down for the last 30-50 pages. The last time I read it, I read the entire thing in twelve hours. This turned out to be a bad idea as I started reading it on my return to Boston, and finished it that night, but I was alone in my apartment for that entire night. Suffice it to say that even though I am usually ruthlessly rational about these kinds of things, I still didn’t turn out all the lights in the apartment that night.
Even though I do find it a little strange that The Shining is on The List, I would definitely recommend it. It’s a quick, intense read, and one that I will read again for sure—just not when I’m by myself in my apartment.