books · Horror · Stephen King

‘This inhuman place makes human monsters’ – The Shining: Review


In completing my English Literature degree with a 2:1 classification (yay), I finally have the time to read fiction for fun again!
Of course being left with an unlimited array of genres to choose from I decided to read three books at the same time. However when I began the third book The Shining I physically couldn’t put it down so completed it without distraction within a few days.

I had never read any of Stephen King’s novel prior to this but had seen a few film adaptions of his work, The Shining included. I was pretty shocked however to discover that the book is almost completely different in tone and theme to Kubrick’s version.
In the book Jack is a good father to Danny (albeit flawed) and shows genuine love and compassion to his family, light-years away from Jack Nicholson’s psychotic maniac.

But, I don’t wish to scrupulously compare the two versions as this is a review of the book after all!

The narrative is somewhat slow paced at the start as the Torrance family relationships are thoroughly explored. Nonetheless I felt this was necessary for the horror later on and did not get bored at all. Although Jack suffers from alcoholism and anger issues King makes it clear that he wants to change, for the sake of his family, a reason why he takes the caretaker job at the Overlook in the first place. Setting this up allows for the true horror of the hotel’s possession of Jack, especially when he manages to temporarily break through at the end of the novel to tell Danny that he loves him and becomes the hero of the story by turning the roque mallet on himself (a much stronger ending than the film).

I also loved Danny’s character and the idea of the Shining, although I did feel like he was way too eloquent for a five year old who is learning to read. I guess he would be more mature than others his age due to the fact that he can hear adults’ thoughts, but he says pretty big words for a small child.

I was also surprised that there was less ‘horror’ conventions than I first expected in a King novel, but on reflection the horror lay in The Outlook’s influence on the characters’ minds (especially Jack), rather than the ghosts themselves.

Overall I really enjoyed The Shining and have never felt so tense and jumpy whilst reading a book. Its the first novel in a while that I have been ardent to get back to, and I felt the whole consuming force of the Overlook’s possessive power. 4.5/5