A modern classic, I’ve been interested in reading Misery ever since I first watched the really excellent movie adaptation with Kathy Bates and James Caan (along with others). It was the first (and actually the only) King I’ve seen because I am really quite a wuss when it comes to horror films…
However, this title is more suspenseful and psychological than horror (at least in my opinion) and although it does get your heart racing in places, it’s not that stressful to read. It’s also really REALLY well written (which I had forgotten) and I have it to hand it to King: the man can write like a dream.
To the plot: it revolves around the time when famous writer Paul Sheldon ends up in a snowy car wreck and breaks his legs. The other lead character, a very odd Annie Wilkes, ends up “rescuing” him from the scene of the accident and bringing him back to her home to recuperate.
However, despite Annie’s background as a nurse, things go off the rails when she realizes who she has rescued (her favorite writer!) and he’s actually in her house.
What adds even more thread to the screw is that Annie is Sheldon’s “Number One Fan” (quote from Annie) and she is really desperate for Paul to finish off his book series featuring one of her favorite characters. In fact, even though the poor guy is laid up with these two broken legs, she still persists in him writing from his sick bed as he recovers.
Sheldon is captive for the duration until he might be able to use his legs again, so his mobility is constrained and his freedom curtailed. As the hours and days go by, Sheldon realizes that Annie is mentally off. But what can he do when faced with his mobility problems? Additionally, Annie has stolen a lot of medicine throughout her nursing career and she doesn’t hesitate to give Sheldon the meds, initially for the pain and then later on, as a form of control.
King does an excellent job of taking the reader on this journey of discovery with this pair of characters. As the days go by and Sheldon gradually recovers from his injuries, both you (as the reader) and the patient himself pick up clues about Annie’s mental health (or lack of it). (But – was she as crazy as she seemed?…)
Anyway, all set in a distant cabin in a snowy landscape (so escape via foot for Paul is even more unlikely), King ratchets up the tension throughout the narrative arc and it reads like a hot-knife-through-butter. However, this is not a bad thing. As mentioned, King is an excellent wordsmith and this was a fast pleasure to read.
I wonder if King has written any other non-horror books that I could chase down? Off to the library…
P.S. The 1990 movie is just a good as the book.
P.P.S. The book won the 1987 Bram Stoker Award for a Novel among some of the accolades. No wonder. It’s a really good and well-written narrative.