Book Review│The Shining

the-shiningAuthor: Stephen King (French translator: Joan Bernard) // First published: January 1977 // Genre: Horror
This edition: 574 pages, published 1986 by J’ai Lu // Get it @TheBookDepository

Read in October 2016

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Danny was only five years old but in the words of old Mr Halloran he was a ‘shiner’, aglow with psychic voltage. When his father became caretaker of the Overlook Hotel his visions grew frighteningly out of control.

As winter closed in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seemed to develop a life of its own. It was meant to be empty, but who was the lady in Room 217, and who were the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why did the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive?

Somewhere, somehow there was an evil force in the hotel – and that too had begun to shine…

My thoughts

Let me preface this by saying I have never seen the movie. Apart from some images that have become iconic (like the one featured on the DVD and recent book covers), I never really knew what the movie was about or what went on in it. So this year, when I saw a bunch of people (mainly Max and Raeleen for their Uncovered Book Club) reading it in October, I figured it was a good time for me to read it as well. I found an old copy of the French version in a second-hand bookshop for fairly cheap, and I was pretty happy with it. I like me some vintage covers!

The first surprise was to see a child on the cover, and the French subtitle “l’enfant lumière” which roughly/poorly translates to “the Light child”. I had no idea a child was at the centre of the story; at least that’s what this cover seemed to suggest. But I know that the movie is supposed to be quite different from the book, so maybe it was one of the things that were overlooked ( 😉 ) in the movie.

King creates an uneasy atmosphere that makes you uncomfortable, especially in the beginning because you don’t know what is going on. But I didn’t like any of the characters, I didn’t feel for any of them, and ultimately, I didn’t care all that much. Nothing really gripped me into the story. There are some good scenes involving room 217, but not enough.

Another thing is that I expected to be scared. I started to read this during the day, when it’s lights out, because I didn’t want to be the last thing I read each night before bed. It was creepy, but not scary. And I’m a scaredy cat! I’m usually afraid of everything (that’s why I never dared to watch the movie), but I ended up reading it at night too and no nightmares and bad dreams ensued. I’m not going to complain about that too much, though; no bad dreams is a pretty good thing!

I would argue that less things happen in The Green Mile, but the events and characters were a lot more compelling. At least to me.

I have read this in French (something I don’t do much of these days), and all throughout the book I couldn’t help but feel that the translation read very outdated, and it threw me a little. I am no translator myself, but I did study it at university, and I kept going over some passages thinking of what the original English version was and how I would have translated it. Some of the choices Joan Bernard made seemed odd to me, and it often took me out of the story. For example, it is my understanding that in the original version, Danny’s and Hallorann’s abilities are referred to as “the Shine”, which gives the title of the book its meaning, but in French it’s galled “le Don” (“the Gift”). So I went through the whole book wondering what this “shining” and “light child” business was about.

My rating:

The Shining didn’t live up to my expectations. I ended up being bored for most of it. How unfortunate for a book with such a big reputation.

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