So I’ve been a bad boy – in two ways, but I’ll just name the first here – that I read this book 3 weeks ago and haven’t written it up yet. Which is a problem because my memory is terrible and any details I recall have since merged into an overall impression. So I might approach this review slightly differently.
Normally at this point I’d do a little synopsis of the start of the plot so you’d know what kind of story it is and then make my comments on how I enjoyed it (or not). But do I really need to do that?
OK so a writer takes a job as a housekeeper-handyman for an isolated hotel that’s closed for the winter. As he and his family become more cut off by the weather strange things begin to happen.
But you probably knew that because of the film. Even if like me you’ve never really seen the film all the way through it’s one of those things that has so seeped into the culture that you’ll have seen a few clips, or even parodies of famous moments – “Here’s Johnny“? “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy“? (neither of those moments are in the book by the way)
The thing is – and I can’t stress this enough – the book is not the film. The film as powerful as it is – and since reading the book I have watched the film from start to finish – is a different story. It has the same elements but the film is really about the descent of a man into a kind of madness, a cabin fever brought on by boredom and isolation in which some spooky things happen but they may just be in his mind. The book is the story of a place, a place where powerful and malevolent forces have infiltrated the fabric of the hotel that’s built there and manifest themselves in increasingly disturbing ways.
I can see why fans of the book might dislike the film.
I wasn’t gripped straight away. It took maybe 50-100 pages. But during the early part of the book I identified – too much for comfort – with the character of Jack Torrance and that kept me interested. Once we get to the hotel, the tension ratchets up increasingly as the chapters go by and by the end it’s a really suspenseful page-turning thrill of a ride.
Funny anecdote – whilst I was still about halfway through for a little light relief I decided to break from reading and watch that episode of Friends where Joey’s reading the Shining and has to put it in the freezer. Of course what I’d forgotten about that episode, kinda the point of that strand of it, is that Joey spoils the book for Rachel. So even though I knew I knew the ending of the film, I also knew that the ending of the book was slightly different and didn’t know exactly what it was – until I spoilt myself by watching Friends.
Except not really. One way I can tell this is really a great book is that even though I knew a lot of the bare bones of the story (from the film) including the ending (from Friends) I still enjoyed this read.
8/10 – A master story-teller on his game.