The Green Mile and the DomeAlong

Thursday, June 20, 2013

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


annieb said...

I couldn't agree more with your review of The Green Mile, both book and movie. I loved them both. I have always felt that Stephen King is a highly underrated author. I think there are some terrible authors out there, who nevertheless sell a lot of books (Patterson, Dan Brown), but King is not one of them.

Brooke said...

King is just such a masterful storyteller! I'm glad you enjoyed The Green Mile. Haven't read this one yet, but enjoyed the movie tremendously. I'm looking forward to continuing my journey into King's writing. I have Needful Things and The Stand on my shelves. So far this year I've read 'Salem's Lot and It.

Sandy Nawrot said...

King is brilliant, not only at weaving a story but developing his characters. There aren't too many authors that can make you feel so much hate for a person like him. The main point is that he isn't just about the horror in the supernatural sense. It is about the hidden parts of the human soul.

Anonymous said...

Oh now you've gone and done it. I am going to have pick this up and THe Stand after I finish Under the Dome.

Hadn't read King since The Shining and The Body ... ages!

Nice review and I esp appreciate that you didn't give away spoilers.

Sarah @WordHits
p.s. did not realize Green Mile began as serialized ... interesting.

Anonymous said...

WOOT! PLEASE try get your hands on his novella The Body, and his short stories The Long Walk & Everything You Love Will be Carried Away, all of which (but especially the last) are - imho - masterpieces.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

annieb - I'm beginning to realize what I've been missing. King is fantastic!

Brooke - haven't read Salem's Lot or It. I'd love to know if you liked them!

Sandy - "It is about the hidden parts of the human soul." Oh my gosh, exactly! My view of King was so off! I saw him as a "horror" writer, but he's all about the characters and their relationships. I love it.

wordhits - Thanks! I hope you like The Stand. That was my gateway drug book for King. I read it last summer and it totally changed my view of him.

celinekiernan - I've read The Body! That's the one the movie Stand by Me is based on, right? I loved it! I'll have to get a copy of The Long Walk book you mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Yeay for you loving The Body (it IS the one Stand by Me is based on! Love that film too.) Oh yes, The Long Walk is so so brilliant and moving. Ditto Everything You Love, which to my mind is a classic short story of any genre and deserves to be far more widely read than it seems to be (it should be an a curriculum somewhere)So excited for you to read them! (NOTE the version of Everything You Love that I read was thoroughly spoiled by there not being a clear differentiation between its ending and the start of some notes King had written about it. The story is such that you really need the final scene to hang for you. I was halfway through the note before I realized the story had ended, and so the impact was horribly ruined. Nevertheless I still think its one of the best short stories I've read) SK has produce some unadulterated shite in his time but man, when he's good he's unbeatably good.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

celinekiernan - Ok, so on your recommendation I just ordered a copy of All That You Love Will Be Carried Away (part of the collection of short stories titled The Man in the Black Suit). I also put in a request for The Long Walk. I can't wait to read them!

Captain Nick Sparrow said...

I was fortunate enough to read it as it came out in parts in 1996. It was so much fun looking forward to the next installment!
You should check out King's Dear Constant Readers on LT. We read a different book by him each month in the order they were published.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Captain - That's awesome! I wish I could have read it in that way, but I'm also probably not patient enough. The LT group sounds great! I guess I never realized how prolific he was.

Brona said...

KIng often gets lumped into the 'commercial therefore bad' writer camp.
It is a terrible misconception, that those of us who have read and loved his books are lucky enough to know.
Even when he gets a little self-obsessed (I'm thinking the final couple of books in the Gunslinger series here!!) there's no denying the power of his stories.
My 16 yr old stepson has been looking for something to read lately and my husband and I feel that he's ready to start on King! We've enjoyed endless discussions on which one would be best to start with - carrie, cujo, pet sematary, firestarter perhaps :-)

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I keep forgetting about this one! I'm trying to figure out which King I'll read after I read The Talisman next month and I think this is the one! Though I'm really interested in Dark Towers Series, too. It's been a long long time since I've read this many books by one author in such close proximity. He really is a masterful storyteller, huh? Makes me rethink my genres of choice and whether I've been too snobby in the past. ;)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Brona Joy - I am so guilty of lumping him in that category! I'm thrilled to finally realize how good he is! Maybe a good one for your son would be The Body!

Trish - I really loved this one! I completely agree with you about wonder what other books I've missed because of book snobbery. I've also read way more of his stuff in the past year than any other author (The Stand, The Shining, Green Mile and Under the Dome). I'm on a King kick! You know I have to read It soon too because of your recommendation and 11/22/63 because of Sandy's rec.