Reviewed in Australia on 19 May 2015
There is no doubt that this now-classic release from the world’s Master of Suspense and the Supernatural is an unequivocal masterpiece of psychological terror and suspense in its own right. The story is based principally on two characters - popular writer Paul Sheldon, who is caught trying to drive through a heavy snow storm in Sidewinder, Colorado. He loses control of his car trying to take a bend, and damn near loses his life in the process. The second major character of the book is Annie Wilkes, a former professional nurse who, quite literally, brings Sheldon back to life with on-the-spot CPR and other life saving skills before dragging Sheldon back to her home for 'recuperation'.
Strange facts are revealed about Wilkes as the reader progresses through the opening salvo of the book. For instance, hints at Wilkes’ doubtful past and performance as a Nurse, and legal action taken against her, which is only hinted at by Mr King, cast doubts over the nature of the “care” being given to her famous patient whilst he lies at death’s door.
Mr King takes only a few dozen pages to prove that psychologically, the woman is not sound. She has a violent temper, and is prone to lose control of her wits at the slightest provocation. And yet it is only a few paragraphs into the book that Mr King has his reader by the throat. A life saving gesture, one which is almost second nature to those familiar with basic first aid in the 21st century, is given virtual shock treatment by the author in a parallel universe kind of way, with four brilliantly gripping and terrifying paragraphs on pages four and five of the 2011 UK Paperback edition. I won’t reveal them here, but seriously, read these pages for the first time, and YOU. WILL. BE. HOOKED.
Somehow our demented nurse manages to discover how it all ends for her favourite character in literature, and she is not pleased. Not pleased at all. I wont say what happens, or how she responds, but it is certainly not good news for Paul Sheldon, writer extraordinaire.
The first part of the book ends with a spine tingling, breath-catching escapade of exultation and terror for Our Paulie as he dares to venture beyond the walls of his cell and begins to explore THE HOUSE. Salvation is found - albeit temporarily - when a healthy supply of pain killers is located in a pantry cupboard, but of course the Book’s Baddie - Nurse Annie, who is on a shopping trip into town for writing materials, of all things - comes home far too soon for our liking, and that is when your pulse will hit the roof as Sheldon learns what true terror is as he races back to bed before Satan (sorry, Nurse Annie) finds him in a state of relative freedom.
This book is relatively small for a King novel. It comprises a total of four parts, and sits rather easily in the hand at 369 magnificent pages. In summary, however: This much-fabled fable is awesome. It is frighteningly real in its representation of domesticity, and the times when the relationship sours into one of horrific cruelty and terror, the reader (who is comfortable with the genre) will love every single moment. Constant Readers will thank their lucky stars for their good sense and decision making abilities when they decided to become Stephen king fans. And Newbies may well decide to jump on the SK band wagon, too.
There is violence here, folks. And terror. And, believe it or not, sprinkles of joy and happiness, not to mention satisfaction for a job well done. But none of these lighter emotions belong to the book’s principal character. But for how long? Will Paul Sheldon find peace, happiness, or even freedom from the deranged nurse that forced him back to life from the brink of death way back in chapter one? And what about Nurse Annie? Paul Sheldon’s Number One Fan? Will she be saved from herself, given the chance at redemption in a safe place, or will she learn too late that her number has come up?
Read this horrific work of art and see for yourself.
A perfect full marks from moi.