Misery – Stephen King

Genre: Horror, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological
Publisher: Viking
Pages: 310
Release Date: 1987

Stephen King is arguably the most popular novelist in the history of American fiction. He owes his fans a love letter. Misery is it.

Paul Sheldon, author of a bestselling series of historical romances, wakes up one winter day in a strange place, a secluded farmhouse in Colorado. He wakes up to unspeakable pain (a dislocated pelvis, a crushed knee, two shattered legs) and to a bizarre greeting from the woman who has saved his life: “I’m your number one fan!”

Annie Wilkes is a huge ex-nurse, handy with controlled substances and other instruments of abuse, including an axe and a blowtorch. A dangerous psychotic with a Romper Roomsense of good and bad, fair and unfair, Annie Wilkes may be Stephen King’s most terrifying creation. It’s not fair, for example, that her favorite character in the world, Misery Chastain, has been killed by her creator, as Annie discovers when Paul’s latest novel comes out in paperback. And it’s not good that her favorite writer has been a Don’t-Bee and written a different kind of novel, a nasty novel, the novel he has always wanted to write, the only copy of which now lies in Annie’s angry hands.

Because she wants Paul Sheldon to be a Do-Bee, she buys him a typewriter and a ream of paper and tells him to bring Misery back to life. Wheelchair-bound, drug-dependent, locked in his room, Paul doesn’t have much choice. He’s an entertainer held captive by his audience. A writer in serious trouble. But writers have weapons too…


Misery is my first Stephen King novel, and it won’t be my last. I decided to read Misery as my first Stephen King novel because I remember seeing bits and pieces of the movie and enjoying it.

On Goodreads, Misery is classified mostly as horror; however, I think there’s more to the novel than that. Instead, it’s a psychological thriller suspense horror novel. A bit of a mouthful, but each of those labels together accurately conveys the intricacies of this novel.

Misery is not for the faint of heart as King does not shy away from the descriptions of gore and the horror of what happened to Paul. I didn’t find it to be a central tenant of the novel, however its significance cannot be overlooked.

Throughout the novel, King fostered a tense feeling in his readers and didn’t let it up until the final pages. I felt a sense of dread from the first page until the last as Paul fought for his life then slowly started to succumb to the realities of his situation.

Misery is also a comment on the writing process, the writer-reader relationship, and addiction. Throughout the novel, Paul is writing a novel for his abductor and readers are treated to Paul’s thought process and the general process of writing a novel. This is all accomplished through Paul’s growing addiction to pain medication. I don’t know very much about King as a person, however I heard he was addicted to various substances. So, I’m wondering if Misery a reflection of King.

Overall, Misery was a fantastic novel to begin my Stephen King journey. It’s more than a horror novel as it gives readers an intimate look at the writing process and the writer-reader relationship all through the lens of addiction.


Have you read Misery? What did you think?

2 thoughts on “Misery – Stephen King

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