Misery Chastain was dead. Paul Sheldon had just killed her – with relief, with joy. Misery had made him rich; she was the heroine of a string of bestsellers. And now he wanted to get on to some real writing.
That’s when the car accident happened, and he woke up in pain in a strange bed. But it wasn’t the hospital. Annie Wilkes had pulled him from the wreck, brought him to her remote mountain home, splinted and set his mangled legs.
The good news was that Annie was a nurse and has pain-killing drugs. The bad news was that she was Paul’s Number One Fan. And when she found out what Paul had done to Misery, she didn’t like it. She didn’t like it at all. And now he had to bring Misery back to life. Or else . . .
Have I ever described a book as ‘brutal’ in any of my reviews? Nope, didn’t think I had. Well, there’s a first time for everything…
…Misery is brutal.
But I mean that as a compliment. It’s been so long time since a book has had me recoiling back in my chair, my mouth hanging agape as I frantically re-read a sentence just to be 100% certain I’ve read what I think I’ve just read.
Misery is something of a slow burner. The real action – the shit hitting the fan, so to speak – doesn’t begin until about three quarters of the way through the novel when Annie gets impossibly more sadistic in her actions. However, the slowness of the plot until that point really builds the anticipation. Annie’s past is fed to us in dribs and drabs, allowing us to piece together who she is and what she’s done…or, at least, who we think she is and what she’s done. The truth behind Annie is far more horrifying, horrifying in only a way Stephen King – the true master of horror – can conceive of.
I sometimes feel like I’m too innocent for Stephen King’s books. For example, there’s a scene where (teeny tiny spoiler alert) Annie forces Paul to drink dirty water from a mop bucket (a scene throughout which I kept picturing the mop bucket in the kitchen at work and, consequently, kept retching a bit more than ever so slightly) and thought to my naive self, Oh dear, it can’t get much worse than this can it?
Oh yes it can. Dear god and sweet mother o’ Jesus, yes it can. I can just picture Stephen King laughing at my earlier thoughts, patting me on the head and saying “Oh Jazz, you really are funny!”
There are certain books you read and you find yourself chuckling at the absurdity of the situation the characters find themselves in, but this is far from the case with Misery. Misery is graphic to the point where you can almost feel the pain, fear and helplessness that Paul experiences. They say reading makes us better people because it teaches us empathy and all I can say is this; if you need lessons in empathy, this is the book for you. Everything Paul sees, hears, smells and feels, you as a reader will see, hear, smell and feel too. There were certain points during Misery where I actually had to close the book for a few moments and just breathe, just remind myself that I wasn’t locked in Annie’s spare room.
I like Paul as a protagonist for two main reasons. One, his dry sense of humour is hilarious. Two, he’s believable. So often in novels, protagonists develop this hero complex and feel the need to put themselves in dangerous situations when they’re already in a bloody dangerous situation to begin with (danger within danger…dangception?). Paul doesn’t, though. He’s intelligent enough to understand that any plan he attempts to see through will have potentially dire consequences and, as a result, he often backs out of a plan if he deems it too risky. He’s not a hero. He’s just a man fighting to stay alive. As much as we like to pretend we’d drop kick Annie (well, maybe not with mangled legs) at the first chance we got, we have to be honest and say we’d probably be Paul-like in our actions. It’s a very human desire, the need to survive, and Paul demonstrates that there’s no shame in this.
Misery is a gripping, harrowing story of a man’s fight for survival. I wouldn’t recommend it for the fainthearted, but it’s a fantastic read if you enjoy horror of the human kind. So often we think horror lies in ghosts, vampires or werewolves, when in actuality, it’s a by-product of the more negative side of humanity.
Rating: 5 out of 5 (I sometimes worry I’m too liberal with my 5s, but I think I just have a fantastic taste in books)
Song: Paramore’s Misery Business
This book is available on Amazon in both e-reader and paperback format.