Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King

(No Series)

"Everything I did, I did for love..."

For thirty years, folks on Little Tall Island have been waiting to find out just what happened on the eerie dark day Dolores Claiborne's husband died --- the day of the total eclipse. Now, the police want to know what happened yesterday when her rich, bedridden employer died suddenly in her care. With no choice but to talk, Dolores gives her compelling confession ... of the strange and terrible links forged by hidden intimacies ... of the fierceness of a mother's love and its dreadful consequences ... of the silent rage that can turn a woman's heart to hate. When Dolores Claiborne is accused of murder, it's only the beginning of the bad news. For what comes after that is something only Stephen King could imagine ... as he rips open the darkest secrets and the most damning sins of men and women in an ingrown. Maine town and takes you on a trip below its straitlaced surface.

“Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman's got to hold on to.”

One of King's greatest talents is in his writing of characters, making them come across as realistic paper-people with sympathetic emotions and believable motivations. Dolores Claiborne is a work of art - she's not the typical heroine that carries a novel with her beauty, intelligence, station in life, or luck of fate. Instead she's average with her life but takes herself up a notch, makes herself stand out by standing strong in the face of the brutal winds life storms her with.

It's easy to sympathize with a character who fell into the familiar pitfall of marrying the wrong man, marrying too young, and living life to regret and endure that decision. It's believable to follow a heroine who works hard, even if it doesn't get her far, who puts up with the dirt that's dished out.

She's crass, crude, loud-mouthed, and perhaps a little bitter - but she's also bold, hard-working, courageous, and intelligent with the way she handles people and the lemons life tosses her. Instead of bemoaning, she endures. When struggle is inevitable, she hangs on. And when murder is the only option left, well...

King writes Drama well. That can be seen here as well as other times he's ventured into it, such as his anthology Different Seasons. This is not a horror novel - save a few creepy scenes near the end that may or may not have been stress induced hallucinations. It focuses on the heart and hope of a woman who is pulled under by life's circumstances, having her reveal the mysteries of her life under interrogation. While she's being suspected in the murder of one, she chooses to start with another story instead.

The books a little strange since King has most of it in dialogue, and not all that dialogue is a smooth flowing pleasure to read. Island dialect holds strong and convincingly true. After awhile it flows together when you get into the story, though, and you hardly notice you're mainly reading about a woman sitting in a chair while she talks. The story is so interesting and demented that it's hard to put down. There surely must be slow spurts in the story-line, but I didn't notice them; the pacing held up well and it stands as one of his greatest works for me. A lot of his stuff is too fluffed out, but not in this case. The perfect length for an intriguing story.

Why four stars instead of five then? While I try to judge a book by its own footing and not compare it to its film, the movie wouldn't leave my mind. It's been a favorite of my mine for years, way before reading the book, and after seeing some of the magic they weaved with plot changes on film, I couldn't help finding that the book didn't hold up as well. Selena's memory lapses and emotional angst added to the story while rolling on the TV, and I found myself missing some of those touches in the written version.

Both versions hold the point: a friendship forged into strong bonds that last through life and beyond, no matter the station or the circumstance; a mother's protective love for her child pushing her into things she wouldn't ordinarily be able to do.

Definitely recommended for fans of any kind of fiction - whether a horror reader or not.

   Book Quotes:

“In the fifties... when they had their summer parties - there were always different colored lanterns on the lawn... and I get the funniest chill. In the end the bright colors always go out of life, have you noticed that? In the end, things always look gray, like a dress that's been washed too many times.”

   Movie Trailer:

   Other Stephen King Reviews: