Misery. Ironically it didn’t make me miserable as a reader. Instead, its suspense, rich language and well-rounded characters kept me on the edge of my seat and kept my eyes glued to the page that I had to use eyedrops in the end. Misery is the first Stephen King book I’ve read. Yeap, I know, I’m pretty late to the party but I’m not sure if you had read the book, so I’ll try not to spoil too much.
The storyline goes: Paul Sheldon, a famous writer and is known for his book series Misery, is caged up at his “number one fan” (that phrase has scarred me now and I won’t be using it for the rest of my life) Annie Wilkes’ isolated house. Burdened by fear and pain, Sheldon is forced to write a new Misery book by his over-enthusiastic caretaker. And she would do anything to make him write, even turning the “forced writer with an invisible gunman behind him” image into a reality – and it did make me afraid of Annie Wilkes, thanks to the writing which is concise and vivid that it twist my insides.
I love how Misery isn’t straightforward. There is consistency and some parts, even the wording, that might be confusing, but it’s a reflection of the characters’ mental states. You get to read their minds and you get to explore a villain who isn’t one-dimensional. You even sympathise with her a little, but you would want to escape from her regardless. It is a psychological horror novel after all.
The story also worked because of suspense. You get chapters where Sheldon plans and tries to escape, chapters where he gives up escaping, chapters where help shows up at Wilkes’ doorstep but nothing happens. And there are chapters that blow your mind away or give you a heart attack – the “you expected it, but not really” thing. There are chapters that aren’t about Sheldon and Wilkes, but chapters of the new story that Sheldon writes which, ironically, made me wish the Misery book series was real. I’m not going to hunt down Stephen King and kidnap him so Paul Sheldon’s Misery stories would be republished as real books. There’s a reason why fanfiction exists. There’s also meta commentary (by King or Sheldon? I would never know) on the difficulties and anxieties of being a writer which made my heart clench because it’s so on point and can be motivating.
If you’re an aspiring writer, a fan of horror and gothic, or curious about extreme fandoms (it’s okay, not all fans are Annie Wilkeses), then I recommend Misery. It will leave you all tense up, and making sure if the ordeal is over and if there’s a happy ending after all…
Rating: 10/10 (definitely going to read another Stephen King book)