13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 11 May 2012
I'm really surprised this book has just three stars on Amazon. I think it's one of King's best. Lisey's Story for me was a poignant novel about love and obsession with fantasy elements subtle enough to enthrall. Throughout the plot King hints at a world just behind our own, and I felt this was an almost perfect example of magic realism, a genre I don't easily enjoy.
The title Lisey's Story is telling. As in Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca the character who drives the plot, horror novelist Scott Landon, is dead, and the true hero is his widow Lisey, who must escape the legacy of her husband's art. He drew his inspiration literally from another world. One haunted by a terrifying entity. There's also a human antagonist in the shape of an obsessed fan seeking Scott's papers, who's effective because he isn't overused.
I guess one could argue that the book is too long. I think at one point it spends over ten pages, dotted with lengthy flashbacks, covering what can't be more than several seconds in the main story. But unlike other King stories the length didn't bother me because everything written in some way contributes to a better understanding of either the characters or the plot. Lisey and her sisters are well-rounded, realistic people. Scott seems like a profoundly tortured soul who just wanted to love his wife and saw writing as necessary bloodletting.
This in my opinion is one of King's most mature, poetic horror novels, putting him on a par with the greatest storytellers history has known.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2007
As a massive Stephen King fan I wasn't sure I wanted to read this as I'd heard many negative things about it being boring and slow and not up to the usual brilliant King standard. I didn't want to be disappointed. But I have read it, it starts off really slowly and is very hard work to begin with, especially the continuous repetition of 'bool' and 'smucking' (which in particular really really got on my nerves). At first I found Lisey quite irritating and her sisters pretty two dimensional. I also felt that it was a bit self-congratulatory on King's part as he was going on about this writer (Scott Landon) who clearly has parallels with King himself.
HOWEVER, I stuck with it and about a third of the way in it started happening for me, there did actually appear to be a plot, so I carried on reading. Lisey and her sisters became more real, particularly Amanda, who I liked a lot, although Lisey (for me personally) continued to be a bit wet. I loved the fantasy parts, and I'm glad they're there because without them the book would have been utterly dull. Don't get me wrong, I liked this book but it's unlikely I would read it again and I'd probably suggest others if I had to recommend any (Dreamcatcher, Hearts In Atlantis- which is an absolutely gorgeous book and my personal favourite) both of which are in a similar vein but infinitely more charming and poignant. Perhaps I found this book a little self-indulgent, it did grate on me at times and I was a little relieved when I finished it. BUT it's not a total disaster, if you've got time to kill and want a lazy, slow-paced novel that requires your complete concentration then by all means read it, you will get something out of it if you put in the effort- it is rewarding in it's own way. Like I said, I haven't completely made up my mind about Lisey's Story just yet, as I literally just finished it, minutes ago.... if you can stick it past the first few chapters then I'd say stay with it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 January 2015
In nearly 18 months in my current job, I have taken lunch away from my desk only once, preferring instead to spend my free time surfing the web. The one exception was earlier this year when Stephen King's "Cell" was newly published and I was so eager to read it that I preferred the book to the internet. When "Lisey's Story" was published, I expected to do the same again. Instead the opposite was true; this time, the internet held a greater attraction than the next page of a new Stephen King novel, which doesn't happen very often. Not to me, at any rate.
Lisey Landon is the widow of Scott Landon; a successful and award winning novelist. Finally, a couple of years after his death, Lisey decides it's time to clear out his study. As she expected, there are hundreds of memories of her husband in there. What she didn't expect is that her memories would come to life and it would appear that she is haunted by Scott's ghost.
At the same time, Lisey has a couple of other things to contend with. A local college professor, who teaches a course on Scott Landon, appears to have sent somebody to encourage her to leave Scott's workings to him, with force if necessary. Worse still, her sister, who has a fairly long history of mental problems, is experiencing some more of them. But surrounding all this is Scott, who haunts her every waking and sleeping moment and encourages events that Lisey had thought were long forgotten to return to the front of her mind. To the extent, in some cases, that she's virtually reliving them. All the while, she keeps discovering that her dead husband does have a way of reaching her from the grave and sending her on a treasure hunt.
Right from the start, there is something lacking about "Lisey's Story". It's a trademark of King that he takes a while to get going, often filling pages with unnecessary back story. This time around, the back story is of vital importance to the plot, but it still feels somehow unnecessary.
Indeed, instead of the slow start, it feels as if King is trying to fit too much in at once and it all feels just a little bit confused and messy.
Things do improve later on, but the whole thing reads as if it was written in the same way as the "treasure" hunt that Lisey is sent on from beyond the grave. There are parts that feel like they're hunting around for a clue as to where to go next and there are parts that made me wonder if King himself really knew what was going to happen next.
For the long term King fan, all of his hallmarks are here. There are references back to characters from his previous novels and his habit of having characters' mental asides appearing between the lines continues. But his knack of telling a story, always his great strength, seems to have deserted him here. I thought that something called "Lisey's Story" could well end up in a similar vein to "Dolores Claiborne", with a character recounting their life and telling it like a story. This is where King's strengths can be found, but this didn't end up that way.
It has seemed fairly obvious in recent years that King has been running out of original ideas. "From a Buick 8" took many of the same ideas as "Christine", while the latter parts of "The Dark Tower" borrowed from "Salem's Lot" and "The Stand". Even "Cell", possibly his most original fiction work to date, was essentially a retelling of the old zombie story, albeit with a slightly original twist.
Here, King seems to be rehashing his work of a decade ago, "Bag of Bones". Many of the elements appear in both books, with the basic idea of someone being assisted by the ghost of their dead spouse being a main feature. This is where the similarity ends, however, as while "Bag of Bones" was one of his better written works, as well as one of his most compelling, certainly of recent times, "Lisey's Story" is just a bit of a mess.
Part of the beauty of "Bag of Bones" is that you really wanted Mike Noonan to come out ahead. There was someone you could really get behind. "Lisey's Story" has none of that. The characters don't seem terribly well drawn and the whole thing seemed strangely devoid of emotion. I got no sense that Lisey was being troubled by these memories, or that she felt any fear when she was being threatened to give up Scott's old papers. All the characters felt as limp and as lifeless as the zombies from "Cell".
Having been a fan for so long, I usually read through any new King novel in a rush and can tell before I'm half way through if I'm enjoying it or not. This time, the opposite was true. Only sheer cussedness kept me reading it, despite the fact that the view out of the window of a London Underground train frequently seemed more appealing. By half way through the book, I wasn't sure if I was enjoying it and even now, having reached the end and had a chance to digest what I've read, I'm still not sure.
There are King books I've loved and some, albeit in much smaller numbers, that I've hated. I've rarely come across one that was so lacking I have virtually no feeling about it at all. This, perhaps, is the one way in which "Lisey's Story" in unique.
At this point in time, "Lisey's Story" is the only Stephen King book I have only read once. I can't see that changing in a hurry, as I can't see a point at which reading it again will ever appeal to me.
This review may also appear, in whole or in part, under my name at any or all of www.ciao.co.uk, www.thebookbag.co.uk, www.goodreads.com, www.amazon.co.uk and www.dooyoo.co.uk
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 25 November 2006
This book is full of amazing literary gems, more so than you'd usually expect from a SK work. However, what it boasts in its gilded language it lacks in pace. Granted it involves realistic, endearing charcters who become engraved upon our conscious mind, even hours after putting the book down, but Sk takes a sharp turn here toward that hazy concept of literary fiction; the concept he so vehemently believes is the art of ignoring the fundamental gift of a book; story. Although this book contains plots and a developing story, it does take a quite substantial amount of pages before we can actually become engaged and interested. Now in saying that I'm not comparing this with earlier works and rating it accordingly, as a lot of people are doing. I'm rating it based on the enjoyment I got from it, and I was torn between four and five stars. I gave it four in the end because of its slow start. All in all, a brilliant piece from one of the greatest storytellers known.
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
At first I had reservations about Lisey's story. Those others of King's books told from a female perspective (Gerald's Game, Dolores Claiborne, Rose Madder) are amongst my least favourite of his novels. Thus, I was prepared to be disappointed - and, initially, I was.
The story is told as two narrative threads - firstly, in the present day, secondly as a series of memories from the heroine of the story - Lisey Landon, wife of the deceased author Scott Landon. Scott Landon who had troubles of his own - many of which seem to mirror King in real life.
Ultimately, however, one starts to care about the characters, and age and near-death has certainly not dulled King's ability to describe the minutiae of life in such absorbing detail. By the end of the story, the characters - and the portrayal of the twenty-five year marriage - between Scott and Lisey seemed real, and the feelings - although not the events - described could mirror any long marriage.
There are also enough references to others of Kings works to keep the hardened fan happy. Deputies Ridgewick and Clutterbuck from Needful Things make appearances, the Territories are never far away, and there's also mention of a little place called Shooters Knob, Tennessee.
If there is a downside - and why I haven't given five stars for this review - it is because there is nothing entirely new here. There are shades of Rose Madder, The Talisman and at least one of the stories in Four Past Midnight... but King, at his literary best, is still the best around. Despite his so-called retirement after his near-fatal accident, King seems as prolific as ever and, with other books apparently in the pipeline, I hope that they are as enjoyable as this.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 13 March 2007
Having read some of the reviews below I don't really understand what these self-styled fans expect - Stephen King's earlier work is almost like that of a different author, but surely that's a compliment? People say things like "Stephen King's earlier work is better so read The Shining". That's a strange statement to make about an author whose career has spanned over thirty years - how odd it would be if he was still churning out work in the same style.
Everyone's approach evolves as they get older and I think that Stephen King's more recent and undeniably somewhat rambling novels such as Dreamcatcher and Insomnia are amongst the best he has written, particularly Dreamcatcher, which I often think about despite having read it years ago (the mark of a good book). Lisey's Story is in a similar vein. I don't like fantasy novels and I often feel a slight regret for Mr King's tendency to go wandering off into alternative universes but in this novel Booya Moon can almost be be viewed not as a real place but as a symbol for the safe place we have inside us, the reserve of inner strength that stops us from going mad in difficult situations and the protection that we provide for those closest to us. Someone on here stated that they wondered whether this novel was a thinly veiled apology to Tabitha King and on reading the book I felt it hard to believe that it wasn't at some level about the Kings relationship - to me that made it more interesting still. I suppose Stephen King has attracted his fair share of incunks through the years and it is interesting to acquire some understanding, although heavily diluted, into what he might make of it all. Interviewers always ask authors the hackneyed favourite "where do you get your ideas from?" In this case, I think Stephen King is giving us an answer (in fact I think that particular chestnut might even be in the book ).
And to those who criticised King's use of made up words - I can only assume none of you enjoyed A Clockwork Orange, either - you really just have to get over it. Nothing else for it. I didn't like the repetition of "smucking" and I wished he hadn't done it but that's the way the characters spoke. You might as well say you didn't like Lisey's haircut - every couple has their own sometimes nauseatingly intimate verbal short-hand - you were simply being introduced to theirs.
I would liken this to Gerald's Game (another woman in peril novel although this is less "crunchy" (as one other reviewer put it)) with a dose of the more fantastical elements of Dreamcatcher (hiding inside your own mind from an external threat) and a scattering of Bag of Bones (dead spouse as main character) to boot. The novel isn't perfect, it had some pacing issues, the characterisation (other than of Scott and Lisey) was a bit dicey and it lacked some of the intensity of the other works mentioned, but it was by turns moving, creepy and informative. If you really do enjoy the works of Stephen King and not just the stereotypical gory black-and-red cover paperbacks about child murderers like It and the perenially recommended The Shining then I would recommend it. If you are after "A Horror Novel" then this probably isn't the one for you.
on 23 October 2015
Lisey’s Story was the final book that I picked up during my Dyslexia Action charity readathon – in fact, I started it in the last hour, after I’d already been reading for 23 hours. You’d forgive me, then, if I struggled to enjoy it.
But I didn’t. I was hooked already after the first hour, a mere 70 pages in to what I will admit is a hell of a chunky book – when I started it, I even worried that the weight of the book or the amount of space that it took up might act against it, but it was comfortable enough to read and if it took up some extra space in my rucksack then it was worth it.
The novel, which is one of King’s more recent publications, tells the story of Lisey Landon and her struggle to deal with the death of her husband, a writer with a mysterious past that he never really talked about. He kept it quiet for a reason, because it turns out that the Landons are very fast healers. I’ll say no more than that, on the subject.
As if dealing with her feelings about her husband’s death wasn’t enough, Lisey has some other problems to contend with – there’s a killer on the loose, and he’s after her, and after her husband’s manuscripts. On top of that, one of her sisters is having a mental breakdown, and her madness is somehow interlinked with her past.
The story is a complicated, intricate one, and I haven’t even started to talk about the fictional world of Boo’ya Moon. I don’t want to go in to too much detail because I don’t think I could do it justice, but let’s just say that King has a gift for creating a story that’s self-referential, and which seems to continue to evolve throughout.
It means that even though it’s a long, long novel, it continues to grip you, and after King spends a couple of hundred pages filling the reader with questions, he ends it on a grand unveiling which reveals everything. Or at least, almost everything.
One of the most impressive aspects of the novel, though, is the way in which Scott Landon manages to be a major character, despite dying before the novel begins. It reminds me a little bit of how Chuck Palahniuk highlighted Rant in the novel of the same name – it’s an interesting experience, to get to know a character well even though you only discovered them after their death.
The ending has a bit of a twist to it, too – this isn’t exactly a typical Stephen King novel, because it’s nowhere near as scary or intense as some of his others, and it also has an experimental side that he’s touched on before in other stories. That’s good though, and you’re going to get hooked by this novel even if you prefer his more traditional horror – personally, I found that it made for a refreshing change, and it allowed me to see King in a different light.
You see, it turns out that he really is a cracking writer, and that he’s earned the success that’s been thrust upon him. Not many writers achieve a level of skill that allows them to match the hype – most seem distinctly underwhelming when you read more and more of their work, but King is constantly surprising. He has a knack for building his own legend with stereotypes, and then breaking those stereotypes for literary effect.
All in all, while this might not threaten Stephen King’s more iconic books, notably The Green Mile and The Shining (the sequel is even better), and so you should probably get those out of your system first. Then move on to Lisey’s Story as soon as you get a chance, because it’s well worth it and you’ll enjoy it, for sure. Especially if you’re interested in how writers work, because in the character of Scott Landon you get a glimpse at a reflection of Stephen King through his mannerisms and attitudes.
This most excellent book is the real come back of this great writer after the (short) period of less inspired writing (2005-2007) and it is also one of most successful continuations of stories written long time ago by the Great Master of modern horror - H.P. Lovecraft himself.
Concerning the first point, let's just remember that in 2005 was published the "Dark Tower", seventh and last installment in the magnificent saga King was writing since early 70s. It was in my modest opinion his highest achievement (if we except "Pet Sematary" which is still my greatest favourite) and the amount of work it needed certainly took its toll on the writer. I was very afraid that his next works would be lesser in quality and if "Colorado Kid" was still very honest, "Cell" was a disappointment. So it is with a heavy heart that I opened "Lisey's Story" - and I was very pleasantly surprised.
With this book clearly Stephen King is back, with his infantry, cavalry, artillery and train. Not only this book is great but it is also one of the best he ever wrote. Some of the reviewers below complained about its slow start and this is correct. This book starts very slow, but I believe this is deliberate - the story is after all about a grieving widow (Lisey), who, two years after the sudden and painful death of her husband, is still shellshocked. In fact in the very first pages she just managed to collect herself enough to start cleaning the office of her late husband.... and this will lead to all the other events described in the book. So, please, be patient with "Lisey's Story". It MUST start slow and it DOES start slow. But if you persevere (about 150 pages) your patience will be rewarded - and you will suddenly see those first pages in a totally different light.
The great achievement of Stephen King is to offer us a book which is in fact a perfect mix of two stories. If we cut all the supernatural elements, we still obtain a very good short novel about memories of a happy past and the present grief. The fantastic part of the book, once added to it, is a very well written, very dark and extremely interesting story in large part inspired by Lovecraft.
Influences of Lovecraft are visible in some of King's books - the most direct are present in some of his earliest short stories, when in the later books they became more discreet but even better. For exemple we have a short vision of Ithaca in "Pet Sematary" and in a very King-esque joke, the devil in "Needful Things" says that he got his car in the high country of Leng... Here Lovecraftian influence is much more present but still in a very discreet manner - do not expect any "Necronomicon" findings, and there will be no "Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!" every two pages. Instead, we have the atmosphere of Lovecraft books and some of his creatures, which are (typically for King) called with childish names, as one of the characters met them as a child and still calls them with names which he gave to them in this time. There are the laughers, the "bad gunky" (which we do not see other than in its effects) and especially the "longboy", who, I believe, is actually one of the Great Ancients (considering his size and power).
I greatly enjoyed this book, but I agree it is not easy to read - also, it tells a story of a woman in her fifties, so it is not recommended for the teenagers. They will probably not understand fully what it means to be in a long (and childless) marriage and then stay alone... with just the grief, the memories of happy past, some dark secrets from the past and a perspective of lonely old age...
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I have some sympathy with reviewers who found the idiosyncratic language at the start of Lisey's Story annoying. I did too, but persisted and felt rewarded for my efforts.
The opening does jump around without appearing to go anywhere but once the story starts to come through this becomes an excellent read and an entertaining one as all the things you didn't understand at the outset begin to make sense. I would recommend patience until the story starts to bite - then sit back and enjoy what I think is one of King's best in years - exciting, emotional and inventive.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 26 October 2007
You always knew what you were going to get with Stephen King. From the genius of The Shining to the shruggable Dreamcatcher, there would always at least be a tightly plotted storyline to draw you in. Not so with 'Lisey's Story'. It doesn't take a psychologist to work out that this came from thinking about what will happen to his wife, Tabitha when he's dead (which he almost was, not so long ago). As a result, it's self-indulgent and rambling.
I got halfway through the book and decided I was bored of this woman pining after her dead author husband and their cutesy baby-talk. I didn't know what a 'bool' was and as the novel progressed, I ceased to care. There are a few distractions involving a catatonic sister and a sinister stalker, but they just take too long to develop. Most of the story seems to involve Lisey going through her dead husband's memorabilia and remembering the time when ... There isn't enough meat to the plot to sustain the interest.
Maybe I'm wrong and the rest of the novel turned out to be brilliant, but judging by the other reviews, probably not. I've been a King fan since I stumbled across Carrie in a library one day in the early 80s. I'm sad to say that if this is an indication of where he's going, it's time to switch off the word processor and retire to his millions.