Sandi's Reviews > The Shining

The Shining by Stephen King
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's review
May 26, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: 2009, horror, library-books-read, ghost-stories

63 of my friends and 15 of the people I follow here on GoodReads have read The Shining. I don't know how I missed the boat. Because so many people have read it and I'm sure just have many have seen the movie, I am not going to mark this review as containing spoilers, although it most likely will. If by some remote chance you haven't read the book or seen the movie, do not read any further. I will be discussing both and most likely revealing important twists in both.

Stanley Kubrick's 1980 movie, "The Shining", is one of my all-time favorite movies. It is absolutely terrifying. Like many of Kubrick's films, it's visually stunning and has scenes that are indelibly etched into the American consciousness. Who hasn't seen Jack Nicholson's head poking through a hole he's hacked in the door as he manically declares, "Honey, I'm home!"? Because I've seen the movie so many times, I honestly thought I had read the book as well. When a discussion came up in one of my groups about the novel, I quickly realized my mistake. There were no hedge animals in Kubrick's version, only a hedge maze.

I have only read two other Stephen King novels, Firestarter and The Gunslinger. I liked Firestarter well enough to read it twice because it somehow ended up on our home bookshelf. However, it didn't compel me to read any more of King's novels. I am pretty indifferent to the The Gunslinger. So, you are getting an unbiased review here from someone who isn't a Stephen King groupie.

I really enjoyed the novel a lot. As I said, it's very different from the movie. In the movie, it's never really clear if Jack Torrance is experiencing supernatural phenomenon or if he's just going crazy. The Overlook Hotel is just a place where the action takes place. His son, Danny, has some sort of ESP, but his parent's are unaware of it. Wendy Torrance, wife and mother, is just a hysterical fool. (She's the weak link in the movie and badly cast.)

The Shining starts off with Jack interviewing for a job as off-season caretaker for the Overlook Hotel, an isolated resort in the Rocky Mountains. We learn that he has some anger issues and is a recovering alcoholic who once broke his son's arm in a drunken rage. We learn that the last caretaker who took his family up there killed them and himself. He was an active alcoholic though. We can already see that things are not going to go well for the Torrance family.

We also meet Wendy Torrance, a pretty young wife struggling to believe her husband's sobriety will last and who is fiercely protective of her son. Danny Torrance is a special young boy who can read people's thoughts and see the future, even though he's often too young to understand what he sees and hears.

At first, the Torrance family has an idyllic time in the hotel. The autumn is long and warm. They seem to be rediscovering themselves as a family. However, Danny starts having visions that put him into a catatonic state. Wendy takes him to a doctor in town and soon realizes that Danny has a very special gift. What's striking about the book is that Danny does end up telling his parents everything about what he's seen and "heard". They believe him absolutely. This is very different from the movie.

Once winter falls, all hell breaks loose. The hotel is an entity that wants Danny because of his strong "shining". It uses his father to get to him, reinforcing and exaggerating all of Jack's negative traits until he goes on a murderous rampage. The climax is quite frightening and the resolution is excellent. Hedge animals are much scarier than a hedge maze.

The Shining is rich in details that make the characters and setting come to life. My only complaint is that King throws in details that were contemporary in 1977 but are quite dated today. Is any teenager who picks up this book going to know why [i:]Seasons in the Sun[/i:] was a hideous song to hear on the radio on the snow drive up the mountain? I found it funny, but it was a very dated reference.

I found it impossible to read the book without comparing it to the movie. However, the comparison did not diminish the movie or detract from the book. I think both are excellent, just different.
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Reading Progress

May 26, 2008 – Shelved
November 29, 2009 –
page 24
5.33% "I thought I had read this, but it's the movie that's etched in my brain."
November 30, 2009 –
page 105
December 2, 2009 –
page 122
December 4, 2009 –
page 201
December 5, 2009 –
page 252
Started Reading
December 7, 2009 – Shelved as: 2009
December 7, 2009 – Shelved as: horror
December 7, 2009 – Shelved as: library-books-read
December 7, 2009 – Finished Reading
May 29, 2010 – Shelved as: ghost-stories

Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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message 1: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony Well done, Sandi...

message 2: by Matt (new)

Matt I read this a long time ago, but it was after the release of the movie and I couldn't keep from seeing Jack Nicholson's "face" on the father in the book.

Regarding the movie, I saw a documentary at one point that hinted at the possibility that Kubrick was very emotionally abusive towards Shelley Duvall during filming and that is why she acted like a nervous wreck throughout the entire film. It wasn't made clear whether that was the performance that he was wanting or not.

message 3: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Dec 07, 2009 07:21PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Nicholson was apparently coked to the gills during the shoot as well. Kubrick infamously made them do hundreds of takes of the same shot. Apparently that scene on the stair case ("Gimme the bat, Wendy!") was one such scene.

I love, love, love the film. I was into the book throughout most of it but the way King ends it (the hotel explodes) pissed me off a lot. Plus, his whole ridiculous attempt to make a better film adaptation than Kubrick in the mid/late 90s basically made me hate Stephen King. He didn't like Kubrick's version and thought he could outdo it by having CGI monsters and the guy from Wings in it. Absurd.

message 4: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Dec 07, 2009 07:24PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio The only things I really liked about the book were the things that didn't stray much from Kubrick's superior telling of the story. Some of the supernatural gobbledygook was just, well, not my cup of tea. And the ending, oh that ending... Such a failure compared to Kubrick's ending. It's like all of a sudden after all this insane horror: Hotel explodes. Everything's fine for Wendy and Danny. The end.

Philip Make that 16 of your goodreads friends. I only made it through the first paragraph of your review for now though. I'm watching the movie tonight. :)

Sandi Philip wrote: "Make that 16 of your goodreads friends. I only made it through the first paragraph of your review for now though. I'm watching the movie tonight. :)"

Wow. Added one in the nearly four years since I read it. Since this review, I've read a lot more Stephen King. The one that really stands out is
11/22/63. It works better than most of his other works because the pop culture references are to the late Fifties/early Sixties.

I actually think that King's son, Joe Hill is a better writer. His novels don't seem like they'll get that dated feeling to them because he makes up his pop culture rather than using the real thing. Sadly, he's nowhere near as prolific as his dad. I've pretty much been reading King's new stuff because Hill is so slow.

Philip You might not believe this, but I just wrote a really long comment commending your review, etc... But it just clicked up "There was a problem saving your comment."

I HATE that.

Just in case, (view spoiler)

All that to say, I really liked the movie. Any time I watch a movie after reading the book (or vice versa) I go into it with the understanding that the two are completely different products. And even if they aren't completely different, I end up enjoying them more.

We differ on 11/22/63. The Stand is my favorite.

I like Joe Hill, though I've only read Heart-Shaped Box; it was fantastic.

Philip And when I wrote my second comment I must have left out all the commendations, I'm now noticing... Great review...

Sandi Thanks. I'm glad you liked it.

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