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Misery

by

Stephen King

Misery
average rating is 4 out of 5

Horror, Thriller

R. Alex Jenkins

Misery is a cockadoodie-oogie-good book split into bite-size chapters that makes it eminently accessible. Some of these chapters are just a few words or pages long.


Actually, it's a disturbing tale about an author held against his will by a crazy ex-nurse called Annie Wilkes. Annie suffers from severe mental health issues and depression and although not always scary or disturbing, look away now if body horror is a trigger as well as concerns about mental health.


A book about suffering in so many ways, physically due to injuries and psychologically due to the cruelty and threats of another person. Annie is severely ill, but also very lucid and competent when she wants to be, who subjects Paul Sheldon to the worst case of psychological gaslighting you could ever imagine. He doesn't know what to say or do, but survives as best he can for as long as it takes.


Because there is scarier horror literature out there, Misery feels a bit tame because of how slow paced it is and the way it jumps into the 'Misery Returns' story written by captured Paul while under duress. Although this procrastination isn't particularly thrilling, it's an essential part of the plot, but further slows down an already drawn out narrative.


The section about 'having' and 'getting' an idea is particularly well done and inspiring. If a story has plot holes, some people will let these annoying details go while others will not, resulting in loss of credibility and readership, which is why Paul can't make up any old nonsense just to keep Annie Wilkes happy, who is far too clued in for that. At the same time, Annie can't completely dispense with Paul because of her reliance on finding out what happens next in Misery Returns and through her emotions for him.


There's a distinct sense of duality and contradiction, derived from mental health issues that makes for an intriguing book with more going on inside than obvious horror and gore.


Many books have too many characters and interconnections and become confusing, which is one of the things that makes Misery such a breath of fresh air for only having two main people to worry about.


Even though Misery is depressingly bleak due to the plight of entrapment and the constant threat of mistreatment, it's also madly comical in places through Paul's accumulated hatred and cynicism at unstable Annie as a demented type of Eminem taking a chainsaw to his abusive mother, and Annie's cockadoodie ranting at the whole world. She thinks Paul should be grateful to her for giving him house and board and honestly believes that.


I loved the reference to Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper plus lots of other retro references to bands and music from the 1980s and before.


However, I can't absolutely rave about Misery, maybe because I knew what was coming next and perhaps because there's better shocking horror literature out there and also because it's so slow paced. It's a psychological horror book rather than a fast-paced thriller, although there are some magnificent sections at times.


This is a classic horror book and recommended, although Stephen King has written better. There's something a bit stodgy about the writing style and its overall lack of scope to deserve five stars.

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