Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Review: Misery – Stephen King

Misery – Stephen King

Paul Sheldon. He's a bestselling novelist who has finally met his biggest fan. Her name is Annie Wilkes and she is more than a rabid reader—she is Paul's nurse, tending his shattered body after an automobile accident. But she is also his captor, keeping him prisoner in her isolated house. Now Annie wants Paul to write his greatest work—just for her. She has a lot of ways to spur him on. One is a needle. Another is an ax. And if they don't work, she can get really nasty . . .

Review: I call myself a Stephen King fan (not his number one fan), but I had somehow never read Misery. Oops. I have seen the movie several times, though, if that counts. I found a copy of the book at a used bookstore and started reading it immediately. It did not disappoint.

Most of you know this story, right? A bestselling author, Paul Sheldon, gets drunk and crashes his car in the remote mountains of Colorado. He wakes up in the home of Annie Wilkes, his “Number one fan.” In exchange for saving his life, Annie wants Paul to write a book especially for her. If he doesn’t do it correctly, she has a fondness for amputating limbs . . .

“I am in trouble here. This woman is not right.” – Misery

Annie Wilkes is one of the most iconic horror villains (and most intense bookworms) of all time. There’s a good reason for her infamy: She’s completely terrifying! From the outside, she doesn’t seem threatening. She’s a frumpy middle-aged woman who’s scared to say a curse word. But once Paul and the reader get to know Annie, her unpredictability becomes unsettling. Any tiny thing can get her angry. She’s freakishly strong and not as simple-minded as she acts. The suspense in this story builds slowly, but there’s always a sense of anticipation. Annie is so violently insane that the reader never knows what she will do next. Each of Paul’s missteps causes him to lose a body part.

This book is surprisingly self-reflexive. I wasn’t expecting that when I started. It’s a book about books and the writing process. Paul is a 1980s Scheherazade who must please Annie with his stories to save his own life. Misery is basically a 300-page love letter to the writing process. Well, it’s a love letter interspersed with gory amputations and murder-by-lawnmower, but it’s still a love letter.

Annie takes everything from Paul. She strips away his smoking and drinking habits and prevents him from leaving her house. She destroys his body and gets him addicted to painkillers. The only thing she can’t take from him is his desire to create. Writing gives him a reason to live and allows him to mentally escape from his horrible situation. Even though Paul is in constant danger, he writes the best book of his career because he needs to write to stay sane. Writing is safe. It’s the only thing he can control. The reader can really feel his passion.

“In a book, all would have gone according to plan . . . but life was so fucking untidy — what could you say for an existence where some of the most crucial conversations of your life took place when you needed to take a shit, or something? An existence where there weren't even any chapters?” – Misery

Misery is fiction, but it provides insight into the mind of an author. If you don’t care how books are made, you might find parts of Misery slow. There is a lot of writing-talk. Luckily, I like that kind of insider knowledge, so I have no problem with it. It feels very honest.

In addition to being about writing, this book is about obsession. I’ve never really thought about how obsession can be both a positive and negative thing. Paul’s obsession with writing heals him while Annie’s obsession with Paul destroys him. They use their obsessions as weapons against each other. It’s an interesting battle-of-wills. The one who wins is the one whose obsession is strongest.

Like most Stephen King books, this one is hard to put down. Annie and Paul are well-developed characters who are eerily realistic. Their relationship is ferocious. The plot took a little while to get going, but once I was hooked, I read most of the book in one sitting. It’s compulsively readable.

The scariest horror stories are the lifelike ones. What I love most about Misery is that it’s easy to imagine something like this happening in real life. 

Misery isn’t my favorite Stephen King book, but it’s pretty high up on my list. I’m glad I finally had a chance to read it.


  1. I was really curious to see how you liked this one. I never read it, but I still remember the movie from when I was young. Sounds like the book is definitely worth reading!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  2. I'm so glad you liked this one!! I've always wanted to read it but just haven't gotten around to it. Is it scary though? It sounds unsettling but I like horror that really freaks me out! Great review!

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

    1. A book has never really scared me, so I’m not sure if it’s scary. It’s definitely creepy and gory, though.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  3. I've seen a few of King's movie adaptations and am familiar with his work but I might be too much of a scaredy cat to read his books - even though I'm curious and kind of want to. I was curious to see how you made out with one of his most famous works. Glad it delivered for you, especially since you'd already seen the movie :)

  4. A Stephen King book not based in Maine? ��

  5. Wow fantastic review! This is one of my favorite Stephen King books. It's amazing and the movie is amazing, but the book provides a lot more insight. 😀

  6. I have only read a couple of Stephen King books and they were more recent. I do want to make my way through some of his more popular novels though. I saw this movie once when it first came out and I think I would enjoy the book. It sounds amazing. Great review!

  7. I love Stephen King! I just got my husband hooked on the Gunslinger series and he loves it! They are skipping The Gunslinger, and making a movie bast on the second book. It's titled The Dark Tower and releases next year! Should be good!

  8. You read so much Stephen King! I'm so behind in my Stephen King game, and this one sounds like a pretty great read. Not the one I am going to start with, but it sounds just as addicting and hooking as all the others have done.