The Shining haunts every compelling page.
The Shining is a supernatural horror novel by Stephen King and one of his best and well-known works. It’s a terrifying claustrophobic tale of the supernatural, ghosts, evil spirits, a struggling family and a father who also struggles with alcoholism. It mixes real-life horrors with the supernatural that blends together very organically and turns this ghost story, and haunted house/hotel tale in something very tangible and sinister. Carefully build and with excellent storytelling this horror novel will reel you in immediately and is cause for an enthralling and horrifying tale.
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Jack Torrance is a teacher who has been fired after an incident with one of his students. He gets a job offer as the caretaker of The Overlook Hotel that closes for the winter and he takes his wife Wendy and their five-year-old son Danny with him. It seems a great idea, to spend the winter all by themselves so that Jack can work on his play that he is writing and they have all the time together.
But Danny is a special boy, like the cook Dick Halloran who gives them a tour around the hotel, notices. He tells Danny he, like himself, has a special gift called The Shining and that this place is dangerous for people like them. So if he sees something scary he has to know that these are just pictures that can’t hurt him. But he also warns him not to go into room 217. And when he gets really scared he has to scream loudly in his head for Dick who will hear him.
It wasn’t a warning in vain, because the ghosts of The Overlook are waking up and want Danny and use Jack to get to him. While Jack descends slowly into madness and gives in to his alcoholism, Danny gets more and more afraid in this huge scary hotel.
Why you should read it
The Shining is written in a wonderful style that is focused on storytelling. Each character gets his or her own voice and we get to know the Torrance family very well. Not only their relationships, but also their thoughts, fears and struggles. These are aggravated by the isolation and the haunted hotel that lays them bare. Especially interesting is the voice and perspective of little Danny. Not only do we get to take a look inside his mind, but also how he perceives his parents and their relationship with each other and towards him. That makes it very enthralling, but also more tragic. To cope with his fears he has an imaginary friend whom he calls Tony. Tony is wiser and knows more than little Danny does or can even know about for that matter for Tony also knows the future. This friend is a very thrilling and mysterious aspect of the story and a foreboding element.
Although it’s eventually all about Danny, Jack is the main character in the book that pushes the story forwards. He is the most influenceable person, that is easily manipulated by the ghosts and evil spirits of the hotel. Mainly because his struggle with alcoholism. It makes him more vulnerable to madness and possession. His character represents the main theme of the story.
Wendy is a supporting character also in a very literal way to Danny. But her fears and struggles also get the much needed attention to create and clarify the complete family dynamics. Her fears are to loose Danny, especially to Jack who has a special bond with him, despite his outbursts of rage during which he broke Danny’s arm. Still, she is the one who stays rational during the hauntings and believes Danny while trying to protect him. She’s a mother lioness and in a certain way a real heroine of the story.
The horror lies in Jack’s character and his rage and alcoholism, and he is the one who digs up horrible true stories about The Overlook. But the creepy visions that Danny gets are a real part of the horror. His fears that something will happen to his parents is very tangible and believable and his point of view feels the most threatening, especially because he’s clairvoyant.
But the real actual horror that becomes all too real and physical are the ghosts and manifestations in The Overlook. The woman in room 217, the maze on the grounds, the ballroom, and all the creepy paranormal happenings are cause for some very frightening scenes that Danny has to live through. But we also get to know more about the background of The Overlook and what real horrors have taken places and are repeated once again. It’s a place of murder and death and that makes it all the more scary. The horror is very well-crafted and is build up in a thrilling way and gets worse and more scary when you turn the pages. To eventually end in a horrific climax that puts all the horrors together and you can’t stop reading.
The Shining is an excellently written tale of horror, that mixes the supernatural with realism and with interesting characters and dynamics.
My favorite part
I loved the parts written from Danny’s perspective. They were really up close and intimate and gave a special look inside the head of a special boy. And because he’s just a little boy, his experiences are enlarged so that the horror, both real and supernatural are more impressive. Also the ending when Jack is losing it and Dick is on his way to help them is one hell of an ending that you want to read faster than you are actually able to, but you just want to know how it ends. I loved this book and it is worth reading it more times than just once. It’s rich in character development, the horror and the storytelling is compelling, that you once in a while want to return to The Overlook.
A favorite quote
‘Across the room was a mirror, and deep down in its silver bubble a single word appeared in green fire and that word was: REDRUM.’
Thrill factor: ★★★★★
Scare factor: ★★★★★
Gruesome factor: ★★★★★
Entertainment factor: ★★★★★
Read more about The Shining:
The Shining is written by Stephen King and first published in 1977. It consists of 659 pages, depending on the edition.