Steve's Reviews > Rose Madder

Rose Madder by Stephen King
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's review
Mar 29, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: horror, fiction
Read in September, 2005

Rose Madder is part of a group of King books I had yet not read. Well, I'm glad I did. Like his best efforts, it is character driven. And in Rose Daniels/McClendon King supplies one of the best characters in all the books I've read by him. On the dark side of things, her abusive husband is one of his darkest villains. What makes both so interesting is that they are also complex. Rose, whose innocence covers a core of rage; and Norman, who for all of his brutality, is ultimately pathetic. What King offers up is not a black and white universe. And of course there is a whole slew of lesser but well drawn characters that propel the story along.

As a novel, the plotting is pretty good. However, somewhere around page 400 I thought, from a pacing point of view, King should have wrapped things up. But that would of left out Norman's horrible Bacchae-like fate (which practically has you feeling sorry for him - some things ARE worse than death), and an ending that did seem, though strangely cryptic, right. There is some padding, but not nearly enough to give me Tommyknocker nightmares.

There is mention here from others about King's Dark Tower series, and the symbolism King employs in Rose Madder. Since I have not read those books, I can't comment on how effectively that works. I am aware of King's statements regarding how he is trying to tie much of his work together in such a way it relates to the Dark Tower series. To some extent I think this is (in a number of cases) an after the fact effort by King - and a mistake. Whatever. By itself, the symbolism of Rose Madder is somewhat confusing, but I think the real-world rooting of the story helps the reader skate over these areas fairly lightly, with entertainment trumping confusion. However, Madder does veer from a dark fairy tale beginning, into Greek mythology, and closes with what some might consider a Christian allegory. Basically, Wrath is a deadly sin, and Norman's fate is linked to that fact. Rose herself is warned of her own susceptibility to anger - even if it is well justified. Rose's remembrance of the "tree" is simply a need to bury the past. Read tree here as "cross," but in a way that supersedes the earlier mythological meaning (King getting deep here). Otherwise, Madder will become madness, as the spider goddess (clearly Diana) warns Rose. Underscoring this Christian take on Madder, is the goddess being restrained by Dorcas (see the New Testament). Good stuff, with King (successfully) stretching himself, while still operating within genre. Not an easy thing to do.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Tony (new)

Tony I'm not a King fan. The best I could do was get through some of his short stories, many of which were very good. I'm pleased to see such a thoughtful commentary on his book, though. You're in a class beyond the usual star givers.

message 2: by Sharon (last edited Feb 08, 2011 09:25AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sharon Leger Wonderful review!

I understand her rage and inability to be rid of the past.

I loved that Stephen King did not have her just go off into the sunset with Bill. As unrealistic it is for an abused woman to find a loving man so soon after leaving, it is more unrealistic that she would just be rid of the anger.

Violence is a life sucking desease that travels from host to host.

I too found pitty for Norman in the end.

And you just had to laugh out loud when Gert pissed on him.

Steve Thank you!

message 4: by Gina (new) - added it

Gina Marcelin I couldn't figure out what h tree represented, thanks!

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