Lisey’s Story (2006) by Stephen King

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Scott the great American author is dead and Lisey the widow needs to clean up the house while looking after her sister Manda-bunny the crazy person. A professor and his former drinking buddy are after the author’s archives and manuscripts and a cat is stuffed into a mailbox. Lisey’s memory comes bit by bit and there’s hereditary madness and a weird moon or something and… I have absolutely no idea what the novel was about.

Except loss, although none of it really registers through the full throttle nonsense. King himself rates Lisey’s Story as his favourite, although most fans disagree. To be honest, the premise of the book never attracted me and the only reason I picked it up is the upcoming TV series.

The plot is thin and it’s very hard to connect with the characters. Scott the great and magnificent author is so universally admired it seems almost a parody, and his ha-ha funny personality and affection for wordplay are borderline insane. The repetition of invented words (babyluv, what the smucking smuck is a bool?) is grating to say the least, and punching your fist through a greenhouse glass is a deeply odd way to court a lady. While Lisey, whose literary taste peaks at Shirley Conran, and who doesn’t immediately run from a self-harming nutcase that is Scott, feels just… boring. She’s a devoted widow and a sister and… and…? Nothing. The threat, such as it is, comes mostly from a professor and an unhinged student, something that feels like a petty swipe.

King has earned some leeway, but Lisey’s Story spends it all. There’s nothing here, just an empty void, a rumination on how great a guy some fictional author was, even when he really was just getting on everyone’s nerves, with some forced supernatural elements thrown in just because. Even as a non-horror, non-thriller novel Lisey’s Story seems cheap and pointless, with its childish storyline and vacuum-packed emotions. A novel about an author directed mostly at people who know and love authors personally, the novel’s exhaustive navel-gazing offers very little to the rest of us poor schmucks.

* (1/5)

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