Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Book Review: Pet Sematary by Stephen King

Louis Creed and his family have recently moved to the town of Ludlow, Maine. Behind their house there is a path that leads to a 'Pet Sematary', where the children of surrounding areas have buried their beloved pets in years gone by. Deeper in the woods there lies an ancient Indian burial ground, that Louis discovers has some sinister properties when their family cat dies...

"Cause what you buy, is what you own. And what you own... always comes home to you."

It's no secret that Pet Sematary is my favourite King book, but this is the case for a number of different reasons. When I first started reading horror I couldn't imagine words on a page actually scaring me, I always felt like I needed something visual to keep me up at night. Then I found Pet Sematary... I'd never had an experience before where I actually felt scared to turn the page - this was  of course in the climax at the end of the novel. My heart was racing, my palms felt sweaty, I just kept thinking, "There's no way this book is going to go THAT dark" (clearly I didn't really know King yet!!). And then it did. And a King junkie and Constant Reader was born. IT was my first King, but Pet Sematary was where I became hooked.

**NB Plenty of spoilers ahead**

Now it's time to get personal... grief and loss has been a huge part of my life. When I was younger, my dad was diagnosed with MS, a debilitating disease that quite literally drained the life from him in front of our eyes. I guess this is similar in some ways to the Zelda and Rachel storyline, apart from the fact that my dad was never angry or resentful over his illness - or if he was, he never showed it in front of me. He progressively got more and more ill, over time losing his ability to speak, walk, eat. Death was ultimately a relief. But what about those who are left behind? It's strange because even though I was only 10 when he died, which is around 18 years ago, there are still days or times when the unrelenting grief can come out of nowhere and floor me. The loss of a parent is something you never get over, it is simply something you learn to live with. The only thing that can possibly be worse is the loss of a child. King's depiction of the grief and loss that both Louis and Rachel go through is so accurate it hurts. This book really resonated with me on a deep level, as I had never before read such a harrowing and realistic outlook on death and loss. There are so many passages that I've made a note of and will revisit over and over again.

The way King crafted a book that is terrifying and heartbreaking in equal measures will never fail to astound me. Because this book IS terrifying - to lose someone is terrifying, to have to try to move on is terrifying, for them to come back "different" is also terrifying. Sometimes on instagram I will see people criticising Louis' decisions or making out that he's a bad parent and it makes me want to scream. Grief and loss does not allow for rational thinking. It does not allow for good judgement. It can be all encompassing to the point where you feel like you can't breathe. I defy anyone to tell me that if in a similar position you wouldn't even consider it (not forgetting the fact that there are other forces at work here). I know I would. Couple that with the overwhelming devastation and loss and your decision is pretty made. So to label Louis as a bad parent is absolutely ridiculous to me. Don't get me wrong, there was Ellie to consider, he still had that to live for, but in those heady initial days following such a heartbreaking loss, rational thinking ain't happening.

It's a bit of a slow-build this book, but the pay-off is worth it. I enjoyed getting to know the Creeds, watching them form friendships with the Crandalls across the road. All the good stuff, you know, before shit hits the fan. And when shit hits the fan, it is almost too much to take. Gage's little Star Wars shoe in the middle of the road... the cap full of blood. Images that send chills down my spine. Then the unbearable dread as Louis digs up that coffin, not knowing what exactly he is going to be presented with. The way Louis initially thinks that Gage has no head as there is a dark moss covering his face... THIS IS THE STUFF OF NIGHTMARES. The little figure appearing in Louis' room as he sleeps, the child's laughter that Jud can hear... Ellie having these vivid dreams and knowing that her family is in danger. This is really a masterclass in how to craft well-written, piss-your-pants horror. I bow to you, Sai King. 

Some of King's best writing in here and one of his best endings too. There's also some unforgettable characters in Louis Creed, Jud Crandall, Victor Pascow and Zelda. PUH-LEASE can I find a Jud Crandall that can act as a father figure to me?? The adaptation for this book is also pretty decent: Louis is a hot dad, Fred Gwynne was born to play the role of Jud, Zelda will trigger a cold sweat to run down your back...

I could quite honestly write an entire thesis on Pet Sematary, so I'll end it here. All I'll say is this: if you didn't feel something when reading this book...... you need to check yourself *insert sassy emoji* Always my number 1 King book. 5 stars from me - obviously.


1 comment :

  1. Yep, agree with everything you have said.
    Perfect review....... totally nailed it. My number one King.....


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