“I am in trouble here. This woman is not right.”
Paul Sheldon, writer of the much loved ‘Misery’ books, has been in a car accident. His legs have been crushed and he cannot walk; he is in blinding pain and he is trapped in the wreckage. No worries though, because his number one fan has come to the rescue. Annie Wilkes - a maniacal ex-nurse and obsessed fan of the Misery books - takes Paul back to her secluded home in Colorado in order to nurse him back to health. The only problem is that Annie’s a tad insane, and when she discovers that Paul has killed off her beloved heroine Misery Chastain in his latest novel in favour of writing some cockadoodie rubbish packed full of the f-word, she forces him to bring Misery back to life, and Paul’s suspicions about Annie’s state of mind are more than confirmed.
It has taken me years to finally get around to reading this novel, one of Stephen King’s most famous and acclaimed, because I saw the film when I was quite young. I didn’t know it was originally a book at the time, and once I discovered the novel I preferred to read something that I didn’t already know the story of, so I kept pushing it to the bottom of my ‘to-read’ list. I’m really glad I finally read it though; except for a few changes, the story is basically the same as the film, but the novel has so much more depth, especially in regard to character development. With there being only two central characters, you really get to root around in their heads and learn a lot about their background and psychology - something which is naturally missing from the film adaptation.
Misery does feature some gore, but it’s much more of a psychological horror. The idea of such severe entrapment, to be at the complete mercy of a hulking woman who is mentally unhinged is a terrifying prospect. King writes this incredibly well; he gives a palpable feeling of the sheer isolation and peril that Paul is in, his broken legs rendering him helpless in contrast with Annie’s beast-like strength.
I love Annie’s character; she is one of the most interesting personalities that King has written and is probably the most compelling and scary female I have ever read. King introduces her madness with subtlety, giving little hints here and there that something is not quite right with her. It’s completely unnerving, and much more effective than if she acted full-blown crazy from page one. Her use of language is amusing - although I wouldn’t dare laugh at her - as she hates curse words and instead says things like “cockadoodie”, and likes calling Paul a “dirty birdy” when he displeases her. I did pity her at times; it is clear that she is in desperate need of medical help, and when she’s in a good mood she is very sweet to Paul and desperately seeks his approval. I think this bizarre dichotomy is another reason why she is so scary; her moods change so suddenly, and her bad moods are nothing short of dangerous for Paul.
Misery is a fabulous book; even if you’ve seen the film or are familiar with the story, the novel is worth reading as it has so much depth. You feel like you are right there with Paul, wondering what Annie’s mood will be, and how she will react to each situation, making for a very suspenseful and engaging read. The characters in Misery are genius, the writing is clever and King creates a very tense situation that made me genuinely afraid for Paul’s safety; it’s a skilful, thrilling novel that I had trouble putting down.