Misery- Stephen King: Book Review by Asha Seth

Author: Stephen King| Genre: Psychological Horror| Pages: 369

The Blurb:

Misery Chastain was dead. Paul Sheldon had just killed her – with relief, with joy. Misery had made him rich; she was the heroine of a string of bestsellers. And now he wanted to get on to some real writing. 

That’s when the car accident happened, and he woke up in pain in a strange bed. But it wasn’t the hospital. Annie Wilkes had pulled him from the wreck, brought him to her remote mountain home, splinted and set his mangled legs. 

The good news was that Annie was a nurse and has pain-killing drugs. The bad news was that she was Paul’s Number One Fan. And when she found out what Paul had done to Misery, she didn’t like it. She didn’t like it at all.

Image Copyright: Asha Seth

The Review:

When I was five years old, on the Holi eve, a bunch of kids pushed me in the water tank filled with colored water, and held me that way. I was always water phobic, and didn’t know swimming. In the 2 feet high tank, I couldn’t drown. But every time I tried to push myself out, they pushed me hard, head down, again, and again. I thought I was dying. The kids didn’t know my problem with water and were simply having fun. That experience of wanting to rid myself of the struggle, and being denied again and again, forced to taste that near-death experience was misery. 

Stephen King’s psychological horror brought alive that feeling, and just like that day from that time, I can’t shake it off; no matter how hard I try. But I don’t despise it. If anything, I only love this book more because I’m yet to come across anything that captures that feeling of utter dread when one feels they are close to the end, this spectacularly. 

This is the story of a psychotic fan Annie Wilkes and her maddom in her horror castle where she’s held the famous Paul Sheldon, her favorite author, captive, but he’s more like a slave-turned-victim of her depression-induced insanity.

Paul has killed Misery, the protagonist of his best-selling novel and Annie didn’t like it at all. The price she is going to make him pay, is one he can has never imagined, and before long, Paul will wish he hadn’t created Misery Chastain at all.

The plot is thick with wickedness and cruelty, and there are times you flinch from the atrocities of the ruthless psycho captor, Annie. It is easy to see how someone would go to any extent to get something they truly love; in this case, it is the brining back to life the protagonist of Sheldon’s novel – Misery Chastain. 

“Annie Wilkes had her own interior set of rules; in her way she was strangely prim. She had made him drink water from a floor-bucket; had withheld his medication until he was in agony; had made him burn the only copy of his new novel; had hand-cuffed him and stuck a rag reeking of furniture polish in his mouth; but she would not take the money from his wallet.”

This book is one big misery that drags the reader into a whirlpool of fear-led pity for Sheldon, and teeth-grinding hatred for Annie. It is astonishing to follow how despite being a nurse,  Annie is bereft of compassion and quick at turning her anger into nerve-chilling violence. While Paul is caught in her jaws desperate for an escape, Annie will leave no room for rescue attempts and quite efficiently wipes off every roadblock in her way, including cops.

“He had discovered that there was not just one God but many, and some were more than cruel — they were insane, and that changed all. Cruelty, after all, was understandable. With insanity, however, there was no arguing.” 

Fooling oneself is much easier than accepting the bitter truth, and Paul does get antsy for crossing that fatal line in Anna’s coup several times causing him to lose his feet; in one instance. That particular event was quite heartbreaking as even though the misery of everyone’s life in the story starts to ebb, you know the disappointment is here to stay. 

“There were days when he felt he could bend spoons simply by looking at them. Other days he felt like weeping hysterically.” 

The other side of the coin is the novel Paul is writing for Annie, his ‘NUMBER ONE FAN’. Now those parts are actually really good as King has sprinkled some novel-writing tips and facts that’s a godsend for every living writer. It also consists of many quotes that will motivate writers to keep pursuing the passion. I know I benefitted much from them. And so will any aspiring writer learning the art.

“Writers remember everything…especially the hurts. Strip a writer to the buff, point to the scars, and he’ll tell you the story of each small one. From the big ones you get novels. A little talent is a nice thing to have if you want to be a writer, but the only real requirement is the ability to remember the story of every scar.
Art consists of the persistence of memory.” 

This book is unlike anything you’ve read from King yet. Obviously the writing is impeccable. The plot is flawless. And even if this isn’t horror upfront, boy, you tell me if Annie Wilkes doesn’t scare you in the dark. She is the kind of character who takes more credit than is due, and dominates your mind like a nightmare you’ll want to forget.

I realise I’m all praises for this book, but let me not forget to tell that there were parts that felt irrelevant like some of Paul’s introspective narrations, dragging the reader into his past. I had to skim through those because all I wanted was to be at the heart of the  actual story.

In the end, it is hard to believe what a person is capable of doing; whether it is about survival or ending it all. And both Annie and Paul are in a tug of war, where no matter which side wins, it is a catastrophe leading to a million miseries. 

Finally, Misery is a classic King novel with its crazy twists and turns that are loaded with anxieties turned into disappointments, admiration turned into obsession, intelligence turned into savagery, and everything amalgamating perfectly to give you a story that will rock your core. 

Have you read ‘Misery’? How did you like it? Share your thoughts in comments below.

Happy reading till we meet next.

Until then, carpe diem! 🙂

© Asha Seth

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