Stephen King’s The Shining – Book review

“Wendy? Darling? Light, of my life. I'm not gonna hurt ya. I'm just going to bash your brains in.”

Of course, the mere mention of Stephen King’s The Shining and most people will immediately think of Jack Nicholson huffing and puffing and blowing the door down in the Stanley Kubrick film of the same name.

This, however, is a look at Stephens King’s novel The Shining, a psychological horror novel which was first published in English on January 28, 1977 by Doubleday  and was the third Stephen King book to be published after Carrie (1974) and Salem’sLot (1975).

Stephen King’s inspiration for The Shining came from a time that he and his wife Tabitha stayed in The Stanley Hotel in Colorado. They arrived at the hotel, late on in the season, and they found that they were the only guests. They stayed in room 217, which was said to be haunted, they ate alone in the dining room, and Stephen King drank alone in a bar with a bartender called Grady, all of which will sound familiar to anyone who has read The Shining or watched the movie.

Despite the fact that Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is widely regarded as one of the best horror movies ever made, Stephen King has made no secret of the fact that he dislikes the movie adaptation, and with a passion.

In essence, a plot summary of the book and the movie sound the same:

Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy, and their 5-year-old son Danny, move into the Overlook Hotel when Jack takes up the post of winter caretaker.

Jack is a recovering alcoholic and an aspiring writer and he hopes that a stay in the secluded hotel will help him re-connect with his family and allow him to work on a new play he is writing.

Danny has physic abilities that his parents are completely unaware of. The young boy has “the shining”, which gives him the ability read minds and to see into the future. It’s Danny’s presence at the hotel that awakens the supernatural forces that reside there.

The evil forces in the Overlook Hotel are unable to possess Danny, so they turn their attention to more vulnerable Jack Torrance instead.  Jack succumbs to the power that the hotel has over him and it unleashes the monster inside of him.

If you have seen the movie and think, therefore, that you know the book, you’d be wrong. While the character names, locations and basic plot may be the same, there are some very significant differences between the original novel and Stanley Kubrick’s version.

For a start, Jack Torrance is a far deeper character in the book and he’s even likable to begin with. The fact that the gradual descent of Jack Torrance into madness, and his efforts to avert it, is completely missing from the film is one of Stephen King’s criticisms of the movie. Another is the portrayal of Wendy as nothing more than a weak and somewhat pathetic woman, who screams at every possible opportunity, which has led Stephen King to label the film misogynistic.

In Stephen King’s The Shining novel, Jack is the victim as much as Wendy and Danny are, so it’s a very different take on the story than how the movie portrays it. The ending is very different too, as is Jack’s weapon of choice when he is pursuing Wendy through the hotel.

Is The Shining book better than The Shining Movie? They are actually two very different things and both of them are great. One is one of the best horror movies ever made and the other is one of the best horror novels ever written. Just don’t assume that, because you have done one, you won’t enjoy the other.