Review: Rose Madder, by Stephen King

Rose MadderOfficial Synopsis

After 14 years of being beaten, Rose Daniels wakes up one morning and leaves her husband — but she keeps looking over her shoulder, because Norman has the instincts of a predator. And what is the strange work of art that has Rose in a kind of spell? In this brilliant dark-hued fable of the gender wars, Stephen King has fashioned yet another suspense thriller to keep readers right on the edge.

Review

Immediately gripping, this is not your typical tale of a woman rising above domestic abuse. Her husband, Norman, is a deranged, sociopath of a police officer who’s trained specifically to track people down. The point of view bounces between them in a game of cat-and-mouse, and the sense of impending doom for this woman only rises with each page. Settling into his mind as he hunts her down is unsettling to say the least, and becomes downright unbearable when you begin to actually understand him.

As she’s building a new life, unaware of how near Norman is to finding her, Rosie is drawn to a painting in a pawn shop. And this is where the entire novel goes downhill.

The Mysterious Rose Madder PaintingWhat could have been a very moving story of female empowerment spiraled into a mess of Greek mythology and fantasy that cheapens the entire experience. I started this book and cheered Rose on as she escaped, looking forward to seeing how she would ultimately overcome her situation. Unfortunately, I was unable to suspend my disbelief as this down-to-earth story shifted into a fantasy world.

By the end, the only thing I got out of this novel was: No, you’re a woman and you simply cannot do this on your own. Normally, I’m not one to get in a fuss over things like this, but it really felt like a cop out.

That said, King did a fine job of portraying the paranoia of a woman escaping this sort of situation, as well as humanizing a total monster. I was genuinely proud of Rose as she settled into her new found independence, and felt the tingly’s with her when she found love. Such strong characters made the read worth it, and without them I likely wouldn’t have finished.

There was a lot of potential here, but I just can’t agree with the direction King took.

On a side note, there was an embarrassing oversight with the Kindle edition: Someone clearly performed a Search/Replace for the words corner/comer. As a result, the word corner only correctly appears twice in the entire novel. For the longest time, I thought I just didn’t know what a comer was.

It’s funny how you don’t notice how often a word is used until it appears incorrectly every single time!

Quotables

“After awhile, battered women start accepting the blame, that’s all. And not just for some things, either—for everything. […] I didn’t understand that part of the syndrome for a long time,” Anna said, “but now I think I do. Someone has to be to blamed, or all the pain and depression and isolation make no sense. You’d go crazy. Better to be guilty than crazy.”

The simple truth of things is that bad dreams are far better than bad wakings.

“Those who don’t learn from the past are condemned to repeat the bastard,”

Rating: 2/5 [rating=2]

Worth borrowing if you abort the moment she finds the picture. Otherwise, wait for the movie, which is currently in production.

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