Misery by Stephen King – The Folio Society Special Edition

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Misery by Stephen King is a great book, actually it’s damn near masterful.

It’s more than what first meets the eye; Misery is a deeply rich study of pain. It’s also on the other hand a rich craft book – odd I know, but with our main protagonist Paul Sheldon being a writer who has survived a horrific car accident with the help of the mentally troubled Annie Wilkes (his number one fan) – we’re treated to the writers descent into a creative minefield, where he is forced to head back to the world he created and killed off – ‘The Misery Books’ to write the next book in this series for his number one fan. We get to see the creative process, the rewrites and what I loved about Misery is that we also get to see and read this book within a book as the story progresses and the reincarnation of the series begins to take shape.

©The Folio Society

Paul Sheldon is a bestselling writer, he’s returning home after finishing his latest book, a crime thriller which he believes is his next big hit – it’s a far cry from the Misery books he’s been writing and he has high hopes that this will propel him onwards in a career where all his other titles seem to flounder, where his Misery titles sell by the bucket load and his other titles, well they do well but there no where near Misery’s sales. On his way back his car loses control on the icy road and crashes, his body is smashed, broken beyond belief. But there is a ray of hope, or is it a thundercloud of dread – Paul is found by Annie, a retired nurse and she drags his broken body from the car and brings him to her home. She looks after him, nurses him back to health, but Annie has other plans and soon Paul Sheldon realises that the only way to get out alive is to write the book that she so desperately wants. Misery’s Return.

What I love about picking up a Stephen King book is that it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling, it’s comforting, it’s like I know what I’m getting – greatness on the page, and this is one mighty fine offering. It’s the first time reading ‘Misery’ for me and I feel that I’ve been spoilt with the edition I’ve read. The Folio Society edition is everything a King fan could ask for, a beautifully haunting cover, illustrations to die for and just a beautifully constructed book (both inside and out) – plus it’s King’s words, so what is there not to like.

Illustration © Edward Kinsella 2021 from The Folio Society edition of Stephen King’s Misery

When reading the book we get as I previously mentioned parts of Misery’s Return appearing within the pages – these are typed pages and it just adds to the whole experience – I did check other editions and they have the same format, but there’s something about this edition that propels this element and makes the reader stand up and take notice. Paul Sheldon is bought an old Royal Typewriter by Annie Wilkes – the typewriter is second hand and has a key missing. So when these typed pages appear we see the missing letter has been hand drawn in by Paul Sheldon and later by Annie. It’s such a cool touch as the handwriting of each letter is slightly different – it’s a small detail, one that could have been overlooked, but it’s that attention to detail that really propels the feeling of the book, everything has been taken into consideration. Later as his furious work continues at the keys other ones break and there are more corrections added, we’re also treated to some hand written pages once Paul gives up completely from using the infernal contraption.

My only reference to Misery was the film directed by Rob Reiner and staring James Caan and Kathy Bates. It’s a great film, but the book – as they always say – is so much better than the film. I was gearing myself up for a particular scene (it’s an old book and an old film – so I’m going to mention it, if you don’t want to know skip to the next paragraph) the scene where Annie (Kathy Bates) takes a sledgehammer to Paul’s already broken and mending legs, in essence she hobbles him. The book takes this whole scene one step further, all I’m going to say is there is an axe involved an a blowtorch and a whole lot of suffering.

Illustration © Edward Kinsella 2021 from The Folio Society edition of Stephen King’s Misery

It’s not the only difference there is, there are many and when I think about them I understand why they’re not in the film (the rat scene for example) and another scene that involves a cop and a lawnmower. But that’s what makes the book so great. If you’ve not read the book and have only seen the film, boy the book is like a whole different and grander experience.

Another highlight in this book is the way that King expertly puts across the slow decent into madness; first we have the captive of the story Paul and his descent is represented with the voices in his head, the people he hears cheering him on when he’s exploring or working or thinking of ways to kill his captor Annie. But King also shows us Annie’s also declining mental health and slowly shows us that this woman is as mad as a box of frogs. It’s masterful stuff and when Paul finds a scrap book we soon realise that he’s in a whole world of hurt and it’s only just beginning.

But with this Folio Society Edition I have to applaud the quite stunning artwork by Edward Kinsella (he previously illustrated The Folio Edition of The Shining) – they are exquisite, they add a much-needed beauty to this horrific tale and the scenes that Kinsella had chosen to illustrate (or been told to illustrate) are just little slices of heaven. They add to the unfolding story and help the reader visualise what is happening on the page – they don’t take away or steal from the words, they emphasise emphatically the brilliance on the page, working in a harmony that is truly beautiful to behold – and I for one look forward to more Stephen King editions with Edward Kinsella at the helm.

©The Folio Society

The Folio Society Edition of Misery is a must have for all Stephen King fans – a stunning story that is painstakingly brought together to form a magnificent book, but not only that – it’s a priceless work of art too – I had noted that there were signed editions of the book available and after a quick glance on Ebay it is clear that these limited number were all snapped up by touts and it would appear that none made their way to real Stephen King fans – as they are now selling for close to £900.

This is a masterful edition where every detail has been thought about thoroughly which ensures a collector’s edition that will blow your socks off!

The Folio Society edition of Stephen King’s Misery, illustrated by Edward Kinsella, is available exclusively from www.foliosociety.com/uk/misery.html

Stephen King

Stephen King was born in Portland, Maine, in 1947. He graduated with a BA in English from the University of Maine at Orono in 1970, and taught high-school English in Hampden, Maine, before becoming a full-time writer in 1974, following the publication of his first book, Carrie. He is the author of more than 50 novels, all of them worldwide best-sellers, including Salem’s Lot (1975), Pet Semetary (1983) and Misery (1987). He has also written six works of non-fiction and nearly 200 short stories. Many of his books and novellas have been turned into celebrated films, and have earned him Bram Stoker Awards, World Fantasy Awards and British Fantasy Society Awards. In 2003 the National Book Foundation awarded King the Medal for Distinguished Contributions to American Letters, and in 2015 he received a National Medal of Arts from the United States National Endowment for the Arts for his contribution to literature.

Edward Kinsella

Edward Kinsella was born in St Louis, Missouri. He graduated with honours from Ringling School of Art and Design in 2006, and his work has since been commissioned by a variety of prestigious magazines and publishers. He has also shown his fine art and illustration in a number of gallery exhibitions. His accolades include gold and silver medals from the Society of Illustrators, and a Gold Award from Spectrum. Kinsella has previously illustrated the Folio editions of The Shining (2016) and East of Eden (2017).

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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