Classics Club Review: The Shining

This is the first book I have crossed off my Classics Club reading list!  And I think for Classics reviews, I will depart from my normal review format and kind of just talk about my thoughts and feelings about this novel in a free-form way.  Classics are classics because they stand the test of time, so I don’t feel the need to review these books in the typical sense of the word.  Instead, I will just talk about them!

Which brings me to Stephen King’s The Shining.  To me, Stephen King is one of those authors that has defined the horror genre, and that allows him to “stand the test of time” as an author.  So, I feel like one of his most famous novels becomes a “classic horror” novel because of the prestige of the author.

What initially drew me to pick up this novel was my recent viewing of the classic horror movie adaptation of The Shining (Yes, the one with Jack Nicholson. No, I didn’t even know there was a remake until my co-worker asked me which version I saw).  I watched it during the Halloween season because I was in a horror movie mood and I had never seen it before.  I really enjoyed the movie, but at the end I was left with this feeling like I was missing something.  To me, it felt like because I hadn’t read the book I didn’t really understand everything that was going on.  So, I went to my library’s online catalog and immediately put the audiobook of The Shining on hold.  I wanted to see what I was missing!

For those unfamiliar with the story, Jack Torrence is hired as the winter workman for the grand Overlook Hotel in the peaks of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.  So he, along with his wife and son, move in for the winter months.  At first, everything seems wonderful–an unusually large amount of space for their family to spread out in.  Then, strange things begin to happen.  And the Torrence family realizes that the grand Overlook has a not so grand history.  In fact, it has a horrifying history.

What I truly loved about this novel, other than the terrifying suspense and horror that Stephen King so subtly creates, is the development of each of the main characters in this novel.  Jack, Wendy, Danny, and Mr. Dick Halloran all play intregal parts in this horror story, and Mr. King spends a great deal of time and energy developing each of them in an intricately eerie way.  Each character’s development centers around the development of the final character in this cast:  The Overlook Hotel itself.  Each of them is changed by their experiences at (or away from) the Overlook Hotel, and those experiences are what shape them into the characters they are.  But Mr. King also adds an extra depth to his characters by including intregal moments of their pasts into the story through flash-backs and memory daydreams.  In doing so, he adds this extra dynamic to the story and his characters.  Are his characters really changing because of the Overlook Hotel?  Or is the Overlook merely bringing to light those darker qualities of their souls?

For me, I think the psychological horror is scarier than any of the ghostly happenings.  As readers/listeners, we experience the bizarre and eerie occurences at this hotel along with these characters, and that is creepy in itself.  But the truly scary aspect of this novel is seeing the psychological changes to the characters.  Dare I say they go a bit….crazy?  And who wouldn’t, honestly?  Jack Torrence especially embodies the truest fear in this novel–losing yourself in yourself.

One of the key factors in my enjoyment of this audio performance is the narrator, Mr. Campbell Scott.  He has the perfect reading voice for a horror novel; he creates such suspense with his voice inflection and tone, yet he does so in a very subtle way.  Initially I found his “female” voice to be not so female at all, but eventually I got so enraptured in the story that I hardly noticed.  Mr. Scott  also has the ability to express a wide range of believeable emotions, which is SUPER important in an audiobook performance.  As this story is full of the creepy and horrifying, the fact that Mr. Scott can invoke a true sense of fear in the characters truly makes this audiobook great.

As my first Stephen King novel, I found The Shining to be every bit as suspenseful and horrifying as I have built Stephen King novels up to be!  I thoroughly enjoyed the story that Stephen King wrote and the performace that Campbell Scott gives.  If the rest of his works are anything like this one, I will be reading more of them.  Stephen King has become the new definition of what makes a true horror novel for me (that is, until I read Dracula all the way through, I am sure).   Regardless, it cannot be denied that he has done great things for the horror genre, solidifying his “classic” status.

My Bookshelf Rating:  Fourth Shelf Book
The audiobook is 980 minutes.  This is Review #1 of my Classics Club Challenge.

Sidenote:  Book to Movie Comparison

While I thought that the movie was really good, there are some things included in the movie without explanation that I received the explanation from reading the book.  While you can enjoy the movie without reading this novel, I would definitely encourage the movie lovers to pick up this book.  In a lot of ways, it is very similar to the story told in the film.  But in others, it is vastly different.  Though I must applaude Jack Nicholson, who truly embodies the character of Jack Torrence, complete with the losing his right mind thing.  Beautiful performance.


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