Saturday, 22 September 2018

Book Review: Rose Madder by Stephen King

A single drop of blood causes Rose McClendon to come to the realisation that her husband might actually kill her. So she ups and leaves him, setting off to a new city...

"It ain't the blows we're dealt that matter, but the ones we survive."

I always get really excited for the King novels where the main protagonist is a female as I've a pretty good track record with them - Lisey's Story, Dolores Claiborne, Gerald's Game etc. I'm pretty sure these were all 5 star reads for me! So I had high expectations for Rose Madder, but unfortunately we just didn't click *sad face*

My main complaint is the character of Norman, Rose's husband. He's a piece of shit - that much is apparent from the very first page - but as the story progressed, his character became more of a caricature for me? It all became very over the top and exaggerated. I didn't need all the biting... It was enough for me to know that he was an abusive husband - I already hated him, but King kept building on it in a way that I didn't care for. And if Norman had mentioned his ATM card one more time... I think I might have EXPLODED. After a while repetition can become very irritating.

Norman is also not a typical King villain. Often King's characters are quite complex, they exist in shades of grey, people aren't always just good or evil. But Norman has ZERO redeeming features - he's racist, homophobic, batters his wife, squeezes people's intestines until they burst. It was very uncomfortable to read the story from his perspective. 

I also HATED that all the sections from Norman's point of view were in italics. PAGES OF IT. Reading italics for so long hurts my eyes and I can't concentrate - it actually stopped me from picking up the book at times or I would get very easily distracted by my phone instead. I would like to think we're all smart enough to quickly pick up on who's part of the story we're reading without needing it to be made obvious for us.

Now, what I DID like - Rosie! She's the kickass female I want to root for! Her relationship with Bill was truly beautiful and I felt very protective over those guys. They are definitely one of King's strongest couples, they were very well-written and believable. I also loved the usual King easter eggs with references to Misery and the Dark Tower series in particular. So bonus points for that!

The plot does go down quite a weird route, and initially I felt a bit unimpressed and bored reading it, but over time began to appreciate it more for what it was? I just feel like the book would have worked better if it had stayed focus on the domestic violence aspect, and Rose escaping from her abusive marriage, the events involving the painting just felt a tad stupid at times and over-written. It's just not a new favourite for me unfortunately, but I can champion Rose as another awesome leading lady. And I did enjoy quite large sections of it!

3.5 stars.


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