(The Shining #1)
By Stephen King
Genre: fiction, horror, thriller, classic
Danny was only five years old but in the words of old Mr Halloran he was a ‘shiner’, aglow with psychic voltage. When his father became caretaker of the Overlook Hotel his visions grew frighteningly out of control.
As winter closed in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seemed to develop a life of its own. It was meant to be empty, but who was the lady in Room 217, and who were the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why did the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive?
Somewhere, somehow there was an evil force in the hotel – and that too had begun to shine…
This is a complicated book with many layers that you slowly peel back and get to the bottom of things, which means that you’ve got to commit to it and plod through the slow passages. The end is so worth it though, especially when you consider the things the characters go through.
The Shining is basically a long description of the unravelling psyche of an alcoholic writer and the explosive combination he forms with the supernatural elements terrorising guests at a remote hotel.
“Sometimes human places, create inhuman monsters.”
Jack Torrance is a menace on two legs. He is a raging alcoholic by the time we meet him and it is only when he almost runs over a child while driving under the influence that he starts to think a change is necessary. Oh, he may love his family and his son Danny, but that doesn’t stop him from abusing them verbally or even physically. When he broke Danny’s arm in a fit of drunken rage I was done with him and mistrusted his intentions from then on. I find even more abhorrent that he saw all this with his own alcoholic father.
Taking the job at the Overlook Hotel is Jack’s last chance to salvage his family and finances. It is also a much needed time for introspection and a trip down the memory lane. What all this amounts to is him blaming his mistakes on everyone else. He’s afraid of Wendy divorcing him because that would mean losing face and standing as a man and provider. It’s all about his feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, impotence. He has little compassion for his wife and her desires or feelings. I loathe men like Jack.
“What Jack didn’t understand was that no matter where he went, the same asshole got off the plane.”
Wendy herself has deep-sated fears of divorce. She saw her parent’s marriage unravel, saw the blame and abuse her mother heaped on everyone else but herself. I felt deeply sorry for Wendy – the poor woman had an abusive dragon for a mother. Who blames their child for abuse or even looks for a reason instead of just helping shield them from it? Wendy transformed from this mousy, silent woman into a strong character in the end and I liked her for it. Yes, she had all the right to divorce Jack after he broke her son’s arm, but I also understood why she stayed and saved her marriage. She fully supported her husband’s abstinence from alcohol – what more could she do?
It was Wendy who insisted they leave the hotel when the roads were still open. She listened to her son’s rising bad feelings and did not shut her eyes to the creepy stuff coming alive in the hotel, unlike Jack I may add. On the one hand it is understandable that Jack tried to reason away the horrors as hallucinations, but he could at least get his wife and child to the valley. Do the decent thing even if it turns out to be nothing. By the time it was too late, Jack was already so starved for a drink and out of his mind that the hotel had no trouble at all to turn him against his family.
“Once, during the drinking phase, Wendy had accused him of desiring his own destruction but not possessing the necessary moral fiber to support a full-blown deathwish. So he manufactured ways in which other people could do it, lopping a piece at a time off himself and their family.”
Dick Halloran is a character I would easily read more about. An old black cook working in the kitchen I was rooting for him like crazy by the end of the book when shit hit the fan. He’s just awesome; the guidance and compassion he offers to Danny is priceless. He’s a fellow ‘shiner’ so he knows what the hotel gets up to, not that the owners admit to it even though they very well know something is up with it. Albert Shockley, Jack’s fellow alcoholic and only friend, and Stuart Ullman, the manager of the hotel, are both more concerned with money than the truth about the hotel or making repairs.
“The world’s a hard place, Danny. It don’t care. It don’t hate you and me, but it don’t love us, either. Terrible things happen in the world, and they’re things no one can explain. Good people die in bad, painful ways and leave the folks that love them all alone. Sometimes it seems like it’s only the bad people who stay healthy and prosper. The world don’t love you, but your momma does and so do I.”
So, is this book worth a read? Yes, but be prepared to read through many flashbacks, ramblings, dark stuff, and slow passages. You will love Danny like crazy, and the last few chapters will have you reach for the nearest thing to defend yourself. I haven’t seen the movie version – I’m not sure I want to; the book descriptions of the horror show were enough for me. But fans of psychological books and horror will like it.