Today, after over twenty years of trying, I actually got through to the end of The Shining. It has been a long and difficult journey. On a number of occasions - and I really couldn't give you an accurate count, but let's settle on half a dozen as a ballpark figure - I have picked up this book from my favourite author, started to read it… and never made it to the conclusion. In fact I had never made it halfway into the second act before.
Why? Why have I had such trouble getting into this book, and such trouble holding interest in it so that I get to the final conclusion? I'm not really sure. And perhaps another question to answer now that I have actually made it is… why did I not enjoy it once I DID finish it?
Part of the problem I guess is that I have always known that Jack Torrance was not going to be around come the final pages, and I guess that was always a difficult thing for me to overcome; that this character was definitely going to meet his demise at the Overlook Hotel, and that it wasn't going to be pretty. Still, that hasn't stopped me getting through other King novels that appeared to have a similar fate awaiting the main character. Having said that, those books are the ones I don't often pick up again
Perhaps it is the case that there are parts of this story that cut too close to the bone. No, I am not an alcoholic, but I can relate far too closely to some of Jack's thoughts when he comes under the influence of the Outlook, such as when Jack feels as though he is being interrogated by his wife Wendy, and his anger begins bubbling to the surface, and it either comes out as annoyance or full blown shouting. King portrays these feelings by Jack too well not to have felt them himself, and I can only agree that at times in my own life I have felt almost the exact same thoughts. The fact that it made this uncomfortable to read, given these came so close to my own truths, certainly added to the difficulty I felt in getting through this novel.
In the long run, this just isn't a very nice story. All of the characters to me are unlikable. I could find very little in any of them to like, even the eternally suffering Danny. The fact that I couldn't invest myself in any of the characters meant that the story itself never really bonded with me. The difference between his first two novels and this one, for me, came down to the fact that those first two books had characters that you could empathise with within a larger cast of players, whereas here I found it difficult to find anything within the major three players that dominate this story. Also, the evil here is ghostly and unseen, lurking within the walls of the Outlook Hotel itself. It didn't work for me. We had already had deaths in the hotel, and the unexplained deaths of the Grady family that had been in the same position as the Torrance family were put here again. Even in a fictional world it seems unlikely. I had trouble getting around that. It just felt like hard work to slog through to discover what indeed was happening throughout. Even the ending felt predictable from the very start of the book, which meant when I got there and found it to be pretty much what I expected to occur, it was the icing on the cake.
Don't get me wrong. It was written well, and certainly the description of each character through the first two parts of the book, where each player was given their chapter to explore their thoughts and memories, made you feel as though you knew each of the main protagonists and how they were the people they were to the point when they reach the Outlook Hotel. It's just that the end game was unsatisfactory, or at least very unsatisfying.
Rating: Having finally completed this book, I find it hard to believe I will ever pick it up once again. 3/5