Author: Stephen King (French Translator: Philippe Rouard) // First published: September 1996 // Genre: Horror
This edition: 509 pages, published in July 2000 by J’ai Lu // Get it @TheBookDepository
Read in October 2016
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Welcome to Cold Mountain Penitentiary, home to the Depression-worn men of E Block. Convicted killers all, each awaits his turn to walk the Green Mile, keeping a date with “Old Sparky,” Cold Mountain’s electric chair. Prison guard Paul Edgecombe has seen his share of oddities in his years working the Mile. But he’s never seen anyone like John Coffey, a man with the body of a giant and the mind of a child, condemned for a crime terrifying in its violence and shocking in its depravity. In this place of ultimate retribution, Edgecombe is about to discover the terrible, wondrous truth about Coffey, a truth that will challenge his most cherished beliefs… and yours.
Who can resist a cheep movie tie-in mass market paperback with Tom Hanks on the cover? I certainly can’t. And that was the basis for my motivation to read this book. I had seen the movie forever ago, probably in the early 2000’s around the time it was first released, and I liked it. I remember being a bit spooked by it (I was quite young at the time), and for some reason, some images just stuck in my brain for all those years.
The Green Mile was originally published as a 6 episodes serial in 1996, and a year later, all the episodes were put together in a single volume, which is the version that most people are familiar with. I was a little anxious going in because Goodreads lists this as horror, and I’m not big on horror; I scare very easily and I have pretty bad anxiety, so you know… possible recipe for disaster.
All through the reading of the book, I felt very anxious. King creates a very specific atmosphere and even in parts where nothing really major happened, I felt nervous about what was coming next. The atmosphere is one thing, but you also have the characters. Given that this takes place on a death row, you can expect that the people populating it are not the best humans, they’re pretty horrible people. And even if the guards are not bad people (most of them), they work in a pretty shitty environment and their behaviour can be affected by it. The whole thing creates, as I said, a thick atmosphere of perpetual unease. It’s kind of weird, because I could not stop reading.
I don’t know if this is a spoiler or not, but this really is not an uplifting book. Do not expect some sort of happy ending where everyone is happy and running through the fields while laughing out loud (I don’t know where this imagery came from just now). This is heavy. So be warned. But OMG it was amazing!
I found that the fact that this was originally published into 6 separate episodes made it really to read. In my edition, each part was around 80 pages, and I found myself reading each part in one go. I know that the fact that I read it in French probably made it easier for my brain to process, but I found the writing really great and engaging (keep in mind that this was my first ever Stephen King book, I had never read him before). It’s not the most action-packed book out there, but the way it is written makes it really hard to look away.
I never give 5 stars to a book I just finished reading for the first time. NEVER. If I really liked a book, I go for the 4 or 4.5 rating, and then, a few months later, when I’ve had time to think about it and/or if it has become a favourite in my mind, then I bump the rating up to 5 stars. But, people… I read the last page of this book, I closed it, and I gave it 5 stars right away. I just LOVED it, which was a pretty big surprise to me too, I was not expecting to love it this much, but it was just so good!