‘Bag of Bones’ – Stephen King
When Mike Noonan’s wife dies unexpectedly, the best-selling author suffers from desperate writer’s block. Until he is drawn to their summer home, Sara Laughs, the beautiful Maine lakeside retreat which has recently been haunting his nightmares.
But Mike finds the once familiar town now in the tyrannical grip of millionaire Max Devore. Devore is hell-bent on getting custody of his deceased son’s child and is twisting the fabric of the community to this purpose.
Three-year-old Kyra and her young mother turn to Mike for help. Increasingly besotted with them, Mike is powerless to resist.
But there are other sinister forces at Sara Laughs determined to stand in their way…and Kyra can feel them too.
I really struggled with ‘Bag of Bones’ and for three quarters of the time found myself fighting lethargy and concentration. It was only when the pace began to pick up and I started to get interested (literally, for me, it was the last 150 pages) that I realised how much pathetic fallacy plays in this narrative.
Not wanting to preach to the converted, let me just enlighten you what I mean by ‘pathetic fallacy’. Basically, things like the weather match the atmosphere and action in the story. Take ‘Frankenstein’ for example. When Doctor Frankenstein finally creates the monster, it is no coincidence that it is dark and stormy. Not just because he needs lightning to create the monster, but it reflects the horrifying deed he is committing.
Bringing it back to ‘Bag of Bones’, the protagonist, Mike Noonan is suffering from a serious case of writer’s block after the sudden death of his wife. He takes himself to his lake house in Maine (you wouldn’t expect anywhere else when reading a Stephen King novel, would you?) and the weather is insufferably hot. Noonan struggles to rediscover his writing and the weather is suffocatingly hot. It makes the book feel quite claustrophobic when you are reading it and even when Mike starts writing again, the weather hasn’t lessened and I found it difficult to escape the lethargy. Then, as the mysteries of his lake house, Sara Laughs, come to a climax, there is an approaching storm. As soon as this appears quite literally on the horizon of the story, I knew this meant the pace would finally be picking up. So with the drama of this awful thunderstorm, Noonan comes face to face with the spirits that have been tormenting him throughout the story and the narrative actually gets quite exciting. And even when this was over and I was finishing with the Epilogue, that excitement still continued, especially as many of my questions finally became answered.
I had read this book about ten years ago and my memory of reading it was that it was simply a chore. Whilst I was able to get through it again this time, I didn’t particularly enjoy it until the very end. There are some parts which are quite sexually graphic and whilst relevant to the story, was not something I enjoyed reading. I have read a few Stephen King novels in the past and know this is something that comes with the territory, but I guess this is just not really my “thing” any more.
I think Stephen King fans will enjoy reading this book because of the mystery and building tension over the narrative. However, if you are wanting to get a taste of his writing, I would not recommend this novel to start with. I am positive there are better King stories than this one.