In addition to my review of The Green Mile, I'm joining in the DomeAlong fun hosted by Coffee and a Book Chick here. A bunch of us are reading Under the Dome through July 27 in anticipation of the upcoming television version of the book.
The Green Mile
by Stephen King
There are books that put you into reading slumps and there are those that get you out of them. This is the latter. I couldn’t put it down, I didn’t want it to end and I was thinking about the characters long after I was done with it. There’s not much more you can ask from a book.
Our narrator Paul Edgecombe introduces us to the green mile and its 1932 residents. The “Green Mile” is a death row penitentiary, nicknamed for its long hallway paved with green linoleum. It’s full of the worst dredges of humanity and some of the kindest. Paul runs the mile with his fellow guards, keeping the prisoners in check and running an occasional execution via electric chair whenever someone’s time is up.
The convicts include William "Billy the Kid" Wharton, one of the most twisted individuals I’ve encountered in a novel. Then there’s Eduard Delacroix, who has made his mistakes, but now spends his time training his sweet pet mouse, Mr. Jingles, to do tricks. John Coffey is the other notable inmate. He’s a huge black man with a gentle spirit and an odd gift.
In addition to the criminals there are a handful of guards, only one of which truly instills fear in the reader. Percy Wetmore is the nephew of a high-up politician and has wormed his way into this job. I don’t think I’ve ever despised a character more than I did with Percy. He is a cruel coward. Paul is reflecting on this eventful year decades later and he sees Percy’s malice mirrored in Brad Dolan, an employee of the nursing home where he now lives. It’s such a powerful reminder that those kinds of people are everywhere, in all works of life. They thrive on manipulation and intimidation.
One interesting aspect of this novel is the format in which it was written. King decided to try writing a serialized novel. This is how many books were written during the 19th century (Dickens, Thackeray, etc.) and so King split the book into six sections. Each one was published as a paperback with a different title. He published one each month for six month in 1996. The only drawback to this method is that some elements feel repetitive when read as one consecutive novel. King reiterates some plot points as reminders of what happened in the last installment, but it’s not too distracting when taking in context of the original format.
BOTTOM LINE: If The Stand made me second guess my preconceived notions about King’s talent as a writer, this novel solidified him as a brilliant storyteller in my mind. I was so invested in the story and it broke my heart over and over again. I loved reading this and I highly recommend the audiobook version read by Frank Mueller.
**I’ll add that this is one of the few movies I’ve seen that really does the novel justice. Obviously some things had to be cut, but I think it does a wonderful job with the story.
DomeAlong hosted here.