Misery is interesting for many reasons, and one of the most peculiar may be King connecting the word to the action of writing itself. Sure, Paul suffers and goes through horrible misery in his time held captive by Annie, but he was already miserable writing about Misery. Though I love his books, I haven’t done much research into Stephen King and his personal life. Was he struggling with writing when he wrote this novel? Was he feeling the same way that Paul Sheldon was feeling? I would love to get an answer to these questions. Perhaps I’ll stumble across them in the vastness of the internet.

Hardly anyone writes characters the way that Stephen King writes characters. It takes incredible skill to craft a story featuring – mainly – two people for the entire length, and to keep that novel interesting and compelling. With Misery, King knocks it out of the park. Paul Sheldon is certainly interesting, both in his psyche and the way that he handles the cruel situations that he’s thrown into. His forced realization about his own work is the stuff of cautionary tales: you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone. By stripping away all the things that Paul thought he cared about and used to distract himself, Annie revealed his true feelings about Misery and about writing in general. It could be said that Annie saved Paul’s career.

Annie is the star of the show here. Simultaneously psychopathic and pitiful, the reader vacillates between contempt and compassion. At times it is incredibly difficult to hate her, when it is obvious that her mental illness is torturing her just as much as she is torturing Paul. Other times, the horrible and gruesome things she callously does cause the reader to feel repulsion and rage. This single character highlights King’s mastery of the craft.

The plot, while fairly straightforward, is intriguing. I am sure that everyone on the planet has felt anger towards an author, or a director, or some other creator of art. The sane person quickly realizes that that frustration is not justified, and goes about their daily life. The escalation of Annie’s tortures upon Paul as she becomes more and more unhinged is, while gruesome, an interesting peek into the mind of someone plagued with this particular mental illness. King also hints of Annie’s evil hidden behind that veil of mental instability, that there is a darker will and wicked driving force beneath her polished veneer.

My only complaint about Misery, and it is quite a small one, are the asides for Paul’s book. Leave it up to Stephen King to write a story within a story, but I just couldn’t bring myself to care much. I realize that there are subtexts about Paul’s mental state and his situation spread throughout, but it just didn’t mean much to me. I had a hard time keeping track of the characters and plot, and some of the interludes just took me right out of the main narrative.

Overall, I really liked Misery. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Lindsay Crouse, and she did an amazing job. Her reading of Annie, and demonstration of her various moods, was incredible. Even her accents for the characters in Paul’s book were great. Crouse’s narration is probably the best audiobook performance I’ve experienced thus far, and greatly increased my enjoyment of the story.


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