My husband owns a huge Stephen King book collection and has been bugging me for ages to read some more King books. So, at the start of October I picked up the classic Misery to read. Misery is actually a good choice for a keen reader and writer like myself as the protagonist is a bestselling author who wakes up after a car accident to find himself with broken legs lying in the bedroom of his number one fan. This fan is Annie Wilkes, an ex-nurse who lives on a rural property and just loves author Paul Sheldon. Paul is known for his series of books about a character named Misery. Misery has made him a fortune, but in his last book he killed her off so he can move on in his writing. But Annie doesn’t like this one bit and she’s not going to let Paul leave until he writes a new book that brings Misery back to life.
Misery was a page-turner and very tense. Much of the action takes place in the bedroom where Annie is holding Paul and it’s very much a battle of wits between Annie and Paul. Paul is in a lot of pain from his injuries and Annie keeps him beholden and hooked on her administrations by controlling his access to pain medication. Paul not only has to cope with his injuries but with the increasingly erratic behaviour of Annie.
Like many Stephen King books, Misery has gory bits. But overall, I found this book to be a very tense psychological thriller. I didn’t really like Paul that much — he has an ego and is a bit of a misogynist — but I definitely wanted to see him escape his situation. Being held up with his ideal reader and being made to write to her satisfaction creates a suspenseful scenario. I enjoyed the fact that Misery is also a book about writing and finding the muse as a writer. It’s also about the relationship between the writer and their reader and what happens when an author is forced to write for his reader and not himself.
Even though Paul’s situation is bad, Annie is forcing him to write his best ever work. It’s also funny that the snippets of writing from the Misery book are quite melodramatic and is historical fiction — which is at odds with the genre of the rest of the book. It’s like reading a book within a book.
Stephen King’s writing and the way he described the pain Paul is going through and his dependency to pain relief made my own joints ache. He really got inside of the feeling of coping with pain and dealing with addiction. At times I felt Annie was a bit of a caricature in the way her mental illness was written. But I think Stephen King just over exaggerated it to heighten the horror and tension. There have been many cases of healthcare workers like Annie in real life who do more harm than good to their patients. So, her character is not outside the realm of possibility. There can be true horror and evil in people.
The more I think about Misery the more I’m getting out of it. It’s one of those books that you need to let percolate in your mind. By the end of reading it, I recognised it as the modern classic that it is.
Verdict: If you want to try a Stephen King novel, I highly recommend Misery.