This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

16 September, 2013

REVIEW: DOLORES CLAIBORNE


DOLORES CLAIBORNE
BY
STEPHEN KING

ISBN: 978-0-451-17709-4
Pages: 372
Publisher: Signet (Penguin USA)
First published: 9 November 1992*
This edition published: 1 December 1993

On the cover:
(From publisher's website. Book has picture of King.)

When housekeeper Dolores Claiborne is questioned in the death of her wealthy employer, a long-hidden dark secret from her past is revealed- as is the strength of her own will to survive...


   This is not actually a SFF novel. There's a tiny supernatural element, but that has no impact on the story, and seems to exist only to tie this novel to another King novel. This is the story of the adult life of a woman who at the time of the novels present is in her sixties. You could make a case for this being a Thriller, but I really don't think it belongs anyplace else than in Contemporary American Novel - or whatever it is a novel published by an American author in 1993 is supposed to be called. (I could go on about how King's work is classified/seen, but I'll leave that for a later blog post.)

   Apart from a short "epilogue" this novel is a first person story, told by Dolores Claiborne in a police interview. The choice to do it that way is without a doubt the correct one, it works extremely well. We get up close and personal with what is going on, and there is no sense of us missing out on anything. 
   This is Dolores' story, and we get it straight from her mouth. And that means complete with some dialect, and plenty of authenticity. Something that really  makes this a very intimate story even structurally.

   On the surface Dolores' story doesn't necessarily sound very interesting, but it really is. Some of that has to do with the setting. This being told at a police interview does reveal that there is a crime involved, and beginning there does grab your attention. But once you get into what Dolores is telling, it's very easy to get invested in the story for no other reason that it is a fascinating story in itself.
   The story is told so vividly, that at times it's easy to get so involved that you forget that Dolores is actually the one telling it, and that you know what is going to be the result of the events you are reading about. King tells the story so wall that you do get involved on some level, how much will depend upon the person. I found myself very much rooting for Dolores, and I found her very easy to empathise with.

   Dolores Claiborne is of course essential to this story, it is after all her that is telling it. She's a marvelous character, and I found her to be a fascinating person. This is a women who despite being from a time when women where seen as subservient to their men stands up for herself. And she really does that to the full extent.
   King doesn't shy away from gruesome details in his description of some of what is happening, and I'm not necessarily talking about the gore we've come to expect from King. There's things here that may make people uncomfortable on a completely different level, and that is as it should be. This is not a story that is dominated by happy events.

   This story also has quite a lot of suspense to it. Like I mentioned above it's written in a way that means it's easy to forget that you know the outcome of some of the vents. And the outcome is left very vaguely described, so there's much left to discover when you read the novel. King is very good at creating this suspense by telling a bare minimum at first, and then feeding you the full story bit by bit.
   There's no doubt that this really shows of King's skill as a storyteller. This is completely stripped of any of the SFF that King is best known for, but that does not in any way make his way of telling us a story suffer. In some ways it showcases it, you can see here that King is not dependent on a SFF backdrop in his writing. He shows here that he can tell a good story in any setting.

   Overall I found this a great novel. This shows King to be a writer who is certainly one of the best storytellers we have today. The lack of SFF elements should not stop anyone from reading this, on the contrary it would be a good place to read a contemporary novel for those whose reading diet consists of SFF only. Likewise the name of the author, and what he's predominantly known as, should not stop anyone who likes to read contemporary novels from picking up this.
   This is a great story, and in some ways an important one, and I think it deserves wide reading. I don't hesitate to urge anyone who likes good storytelling to pick this one up.


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*Most places, including King's website gives the publication date as 1993. But the November 1992 date looks correct, and a lot of books are released late in the year before the copyright date in the US. So I have good reason to believe this is the actual first date this book was available to the public on.

2 comments:

  1. agreed. it was years ago that I read this, but it struck me that the lack of SFF elements forced him to put more effort in and produce a more rounded novel.

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    Replies
    1. I don't actually think that King puts less of an effort into his books with more SFF in them. It's more a case of people not noticing the good writing because they get distracted by the SFF.
      Some of that has to do with school teaching people to analyze litfic, and see litfic elements as quality. Some of it has to do with good writing not showing. If it's good enough to not get in the way of the story at all, then readers will not notice the writing as a seperate entity, just the story.
      -Well, that's a short version of my opinion. I may elaborate on that in a blogpost one day.

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