Misery is defined as being ‘the state of suffering and want as a result of physical circumstances’ but, for writer Paul Sheldon, Misery would be defined by the presence of his number one fan. After suffering terrible leg injuries in a car accident, he wakes up to find himself being cared for by Annie Wilkes. Far from helping him enjoy a speedy recovery, Annie’s domineering presence soon finds Paul writing a novel just for her in order to justify his staying alive.
Penned by one of America’s greatest authors, Misery effortlessly builds tension. Although it focuses on only two characters, it is an absorbing and terrifying read that intensifies with every page turned. Stephen King, author of a host of other horror classics including Carrie and The Shining, fills Paul’s world with a tangible mix of despair and hope in the face of his dire circumstances as well as littering the text with first hand knowledge of the writing process. Ironically King would later go on to be involved in a terrible road accident himself – luckily Annie wasn’t the one to save him.
Watching his latest novel burned before him by the supposedly caring Annie, Paul is forced to bring his most famous character, the aptly named Misery, back from the dead after the deliciously awful Annie decides that his killing her off is unacceptable. The pain he endures is shared by the reader and his set backs, of which there are many, are horribly realistic in their description.
Before Misery you’d find it hard to believe just how tantalisingly terrifying a character’s journey of a few metres from his room could be but, with Paul having escaped from his bedroom prison after Annie leaves him during a fit of rage, the minutes tick painstakingly by as he searches for medicine in the knowledge she could be back any moment. To describe some of the book’s more gorier moments would be to litter this review with spoilers, but boy. That Paul sure learns to deal with pain.
In Annnie King has created one of the most scary characters ever to appear in a book – her lack of compassion and ability to fly off the handle at any moment is captivating whilst the slow trickle of information we are fed about her heightens the fear factor. We sympathise (and agonise) with Paul as he realises the severity of his situation. His mental and physical degradation is believable and his loss of hope and journey toward insanity is mirrored in the excerpts of the new Misery book.
As the book hurtles towards its finale you’re not quite sure how it will end – although one thing’s certain. There will be blood.