Essential Read: The Shining

Essential Read The Shining

By Sophie McNaughton

Stephen King’s The Shining is the type of novel that should be read quaking under the covers in a small darkened room during a thundery snow storm, with the curtains blowing in the wind, strange noises shrieking outside, and an icy breeze prickling the reader’s skin into waves of goose bumps as their toes curl away from the edge of the mattress when they involuntarily imagine the decomposing old lady from room 217 under the bed.
King’s blood and guts, psychological horror omnisciently follows Jack Torrance, an aspiring playwright and recovering alcoholic, his wife Wendy and their five-year-old son Danny, a remarkable child who possesses a myriad of telepathic abilities and is exposed to frightening visions at the hands of his imaginary friend/spirit guide, Tony.
After lashing out during one of his violent drunken episodes, Jack assaults one of his own pupils while teaching English and subsequently loses his job. Desperate to find something new to support his family and turn his life around, Jack takes the job of off-season caretaker at the Overlook, a huge, isolated hotel, cut off and snowed in during the winter in the Colorado Rockies. Disregarding warnings of the hotel’s backstory – about Delbert Grady, the winter caretaker who cracked under the pressure of cabin fever, slaughtered his family and then committed suicide – Jack convinces Wendy and Danny that the Overlook job is the best chance he has to find inspiration, write a new play and to rebuild their strained, damaged family.
When the family arrive at the hotel, they meet chef, Dick Halloran, who also possesses supernatural powers and explains to Danny, in private, that their gift is called “the shining”, sealing a profound connection between them. As the staff of the Overlook trickle out, including Mr Halloran who departs with a sense of apprehension and worry for Danny, the family are left alone and secluded in the haunted hotel.
As the enthralling story progresses, the Overlook gradually morphs from its inanimate, charming persona into a paranormal, sinister, brainwashing entity with a powerful presence of its own. With the hotel’s evil presence feeding off Danny’s psychic powers, the echoes of the Overlook’s bloody and tragic past mutate into full-blown visions of death and violence as the gardens topiary animals become animated and chase Danny, voices and snippets of a ghostly party jump out of the hotel’s rooms and the spirits of the Grade family expose themselves. As well as whispers of the hotel’s dead turning into striking, vivid phantoms with the ability not only to terrify people but to physically harm them too, the hotel also begins to manipulate Jack into an unstable, rabid, intoxicated state as cabin fever sinks in its teeth, convincing Jack to kill his family.
King’s eerie, bloodcurdling classic lays down the blue print of how to write horror that makes the reader’s hands tremble to such an extent that you’ll be too scared to turn the next page, for fear of what will jump out. Although The Shining is a gripping, hypnotic and addictive read, you might want to take a leaf out of Joey Tribbiani’s book and make sure you have room in the freezer so that you can lock the novel away when things get a little too creepy.

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