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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.
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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.
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on 26 October 2006
2006 has been a great year for masters of the supernatural horror genre, but until now the master of them all hasn't put in a worthwhile appearance. Well that's all changed and how!
After a mildly disappointing recent effort by his own standards with this years earlier novel "The Cell" King was being overshadowed by the likes of Scott Smith, James Herbert and Cormac McCarthy. But now he's back to show everyone who exactly who does it best. Lisey's Story has a great many of the attributes a true fan of SK would associate with his work. There's the character Scott Landon who just happens to be an author for starters!
Anyway the story follows Lisey who was the great love of Scott Landon's life before his passing two years before the book begins. Well with Scott six feet under and Lisey all alone and mourning, along comes one of King's truly evil characters in the shape of Jimmy Dooley. Anxious to get his hands on Scott's unpublished works, this man will stop at nothing. King has brought wonderful dialogue, tension, suspense and all of the trademarks from his best work to the table in Lisey's Story. Essentially a fairly uncomplex storyline, the book's strength lies as always in the immense investment the author puts into his characters. Lisey's sister Amanda talking to her in the voice of her dead husband is a delightful intricacy for example. Every single one of the characters (no matter how minor they may seem at first) is multi-layered. Every line of dialogue is carefully fashioned, and every narrative paints a picture the reader can't fail to visualise in their minds eye. There have been many of Stephen King's books of late that have been referred to as a return to form. Personally I don't think he ever really lost it. If every book is a return to form then surely the form was never lost in the first place? The competition might be getting stronger, but no one is quite ready to knock the master from his rightful place atop the mountain of horror and suspense. At 528 pages there is enough here to keep a reader occupied and enthralled for a fair few hours, days or weeks depending on whether you want to rush it or savour it. One thing's for sure though. No matter how long it takes to read, it's worth every penny.
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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
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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.
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on 28 November 2006
I am a big fan of SK but I was very dissapointed in this book. For me this story never really got going, I was waiting throughout the book to be grabbed by the story and drawn into the action, but it never came. I did not feel that I could really get to know the characters and to me the story was a bit disjointed.

I think that I can see what the author was trying to do with this book which was a bit different to the usual King works, but for me it did not work. I felt that there were the bones of a good story in the book, but that it could have been edited down to half its size. I noted with interest that it was not his usual editor who edited this work - maybe this explains something.

If you are an avid fan of King then this book is readable and probably worth buying to see the change in his style, but if you are new to King's work then please don't start with this as I feel it does not represent his true talent.
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I've read all Stephen Kings previous books and even though some were poor I cannot remember one boring me before, but unfortunately this one did. In fact it bored me rigid. Stephen King obviously loves words and he is a master at their usage, but to fill 559 pages with them for a very indifferent storyline like this is just ridiculous.

I was not keen on how it was written neither. Usually a Stephen King book hooks you almost immediately but Lisey's Story doesn't and I didn't get into it until I had finished the first few chapters. The basis of the story, about Liseys visits to the other world, Boo'ya Moon, are a bit if a damp squib and the villain of the book doesn't appear that often but when he does he is a bit of a sterotype, reminding me too much of Max Cady from Cape Fear.

It looks like Stephen King tried very hard with this book but it just didn't do it for me.
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on 29 September 2014
SK's incredible understanding of the human condition shines through all his books. This particular novel shows that his insights into the secret life of a couple are heartfelt and profound.
Above all this is a wonderful love story, with the humour, silliness, sadness and frustration that are part of a couple's private world.

I did find some of the child-like language irritating, but when I considered the vocabulary that my husband and I share, we can hardly claim a totally adult lexicon either.

Despite this guilty admission, I could not give the book 5 stars because the 'smucking' did drive me bonkers. Either using the recognised curse word or not using this euphemism in almost every sentence would have been so much better.
Then again, perhaps that's just my problem.
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on 6 February 2016
Oh dear, oh dear. Reading this on my Kindle, I ploughed through 18% of the book and got nowhere.

Basically, the husband of Lisey (rhymes with CeeCee according to SK) dies and she goes through his things and remembers, and remembers, and remembers..................... thats as far as I got I'm afraid. At one point, over several pages, SK goes to great lengths to replicate phonetically the southern drawl of a man from the Deep South ...... why ??

Maybe I'm just impatient, but at the age of 69, lifes too short to get bogged down in a seemingly plotless story.
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on 25 November 2006
With more than 40 books to his credit, Stepehen King appears to have no problem churning out the words, despite having famously said four years ago that he planned to retire.

"It's like surfers and the seventh wave," he said in an August interview. "You ride six waves that are O.K, and then the seventh one is really great. But with every seventh wave, you mess up the ride, so really it's only every 49th wave that's really a great, great wave and I felt that way with `Lisey.'" Without much knowledge about the surfer world, this is a risky metaphor and the book isn't really very, very great but the reader will enjoy a very good book. Who could ask for more?

In this minimally bloody but disturbing and sorrowful love story set in rural Maine. Lisey's husband, author Scott Landon, has been dead for two years at the book's start, but his presence is felt on every page.

Since her husband Scott's sudden death, professors and collectors mad to lay their hands on his unpublished manuscripts and letters, have besieged Lisey Landon. The last of them, initially ingratiating, wound up threatening her. That decided her to prepare Scott's papers for donation to an appropriate archive. In the midst of doing that, she gets an answering machine message, then a telephone call and a written note, as well as a dead cat in the mailbox. Fortunately, she's been hearing Scott's voice lately and it leads her back to a place, another dimension, that he'd told her about but that she'd forgotten. The boy Scott and his long-dead brother went there to escape their sometimes psychopathic father to heal from many wounds.

At its heart, this is a book about a marriage and the journey through grief that a widow makes after the death of her husband. King makes bold, brilliant use of his satanic storytelling gift, his angelic ear for language, and, above all, his incomparable ability to find the epic in the ordinary. In his hands, the long, passionate union of Scott and Lisey Landon becomes a fantastic kingdom, with its own dark and stirring chronicle of heroes and monsters, its tragedies, griefs, and glories.

Because he was writing in a woman's voice, King asked Nan Graham, the editor in chief at Scribner, to edit the book instead of Chuck Verrill, King's longstanding personal editor. Graham said she helped with pacing and honing the title character. "Lisey became a little more complex and compelling," she said. And it worked.
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