Saturday, 30 July 2016

Book #37

The Green Mile by Stephen King


At Cold Mountain Penitentiary, along the lonely stretch of cells known as the Green Mile, killers are depraved as the psychopathic "Billy the Kid" Wharton and the possessed Eduard Delacroix await death strapped in "Old Sparky." Here guards as decent as Paul Edgecombe and as sadistic as Percy Wetmore watch over them. But good or evil, innocent or guilty, none have ever seen the brutal likes of the new prisoner, John Coffey, sentenced to death for raping and murdering two young girls. Is Coffey a devil in human form? Or is he a far, far different kind of being?

The Green Mile is a wonderful work of literature. King has written this with such talent, subtlety, and originality that it really was an incredible experience for me.

The narrative remains stark, and mainly very bleak, as Edgecombe sits in his nursing home writing down the events at Cold Mountain in 1932. Using Edgecombe's memoirs as the storytelling tool is a genius method, allowing the story to adopt a personal and emotional tone, and for the reader's connection to grow as the words progress. Any other method wouldn't have worked nearly as well, and this was one of the things I loved most about this masterpiece.

King's characters were wonderfully developed, and had such depth to them. He painted them perfectly to allow us to experience them in our own way, but also to love and hate where we were supposed to. To evoke feelings of sympathy and regard for men who had committed crimes such as they had, was a master stroke for King. Seeing the emotions unfold as these men (on both sides of the cells) languish on The Green Mile, awaiting their turn in Old Sparky, is nothing short of heart-breaking.

Questions are raised here over the essence of good and evil, the death penalty, religion, and the power of the law. Most of all, King presents questions surrounding how we treat each other, and how our own acts can influence far more than we think. You'll experience some of your preconceived, or socially conditioned, opinions come to the fore, and you'll be forced to analyse, and potentially let go of, most of them.

This is the few King novels I've read which can't be categorised completely into the horror genre. Although he dabbles in the supernatural, the horror here is humanity, and he shows us this in waves. People are guilty of assuming all of his books fall into the same type, saying they've never read a King novel because they're "not into horror"; you only need to pick up The Green Mile to see his versatility, his power, and his absolute skill.

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