Thursday, May 01, 2008

Duma Key

Duma Key is my first Stephen King book. Hailed as one of the greatest living American writers, King is primarily known to pen novels in the horror genre and that kept me from picking up his books earlier. I've recently been trying to expand my reading beyond the thriller genre and thought I'd give Duma Key a shot. The strong characterization and vivid imagery made it clear why King is so popular but the supernatural elements didn't do much for me and so I finished the book with mixed feelings.

Egdar Freemantle, a building contractor, loses his right hand in a construction accident. He is considerably banged up and his wife, after experiencing a few of his bouts of uncontrollable rage, divorces him. Edgar's psychiatrist advices him that a change of location would do him good and asks him to once again take up sketching as a part of rehabilitation. So Edgar moves to Duma Key, an undeveloped strip of the Florida coast. Once there, he meets Elizabeth Eastlake, a woman whose history is tightly bound with that of the area, and her helper Wireman, who seems to have a mysterious past. Edgar himself discovers a talent for painting and soon learns that his paintings have more power than he ever imagined.

King has an uncanny knack of conveying the characters' innermost thoughts and this comes in handy since the novel is a first-person narrative. We understand exactly how Edgar feels and his thoughts(about his lost hand), fears(about the house and the strange happenings) and feelings(for his ex-wife and daughters) are wonderfully conveyed. This helps, especially when the novel begins to move into the supernatural realm, since it makes things more believable. As Edgar begins painting masterpieces and slowly comes to terms with the fact that Duma Key is special, we accept it more easily since we've been with him as he discovered things. And though we meet the important characters only through Edgar, they feel well-fleshed out too since we've been privy to Edgar's thoughts about them.

As Edgar comes to grips with his talent and ponders over his relationships, the story leans towards the psychological. The suspense is also built up very well as we learn bits and pieces of Elizabeth's history and understand exactly how it ties in to all the strange things Edgar's been experiencing.

This book has made me realise that horror in written form doesn't have much of an effect of me. The pshychological aspect of the book gradually gives way to the supernatural but the supernatural elements are never scary. King is very imaginative and his imagery does create some vivid images, especially on that last action-packed mission that Edgar and Wireman go on, but since they are not scary, the book isn't intense or gripping.


At 12:19 AM, Blogger Krishnan said...

Try reading his Pet Sematary (not a typo).

At 7:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been reading non-fiction books lately and found these fascinating:
Survival of the sickest, The book of general ignorance, The great warming, The undercover economist (not as entertaining as Freakonomics, but still good).


At 5:30 PM, Blogger mitr_bayarea said...


A while ago, I read one of Steven King's books, forgot the name, it was made into a series on tv, but never went back afterwards.

Updated the restaurant review.

At 11:12 PM, Blogger Bart said...

Balaji & ppl, Off topic:

Is this photomagic? Some photos do look shady.. But worth applauding if it is true :)

At 1:15 AM, Blogger Jai said...

Hey Balaji,

sorry this digresses frm the topic sort of. See, I'm planning to hit Chennai sometime this yr during one of my vacations. Any idea how much I'd chalk up per day? Also what are the best places and when is the best season to go there? Is it advisable to do it backpacker style? Thanks :)


At 8:35 PM, Blogger Babs said...

"but the supernatural elements didn't do much for me"

How different is this from Harry Potter for example, is it the mind set when we start to read the book, or is it the narration that gives a real feel than fiction to the story, that makes you judge this way?

King is the most versatile writer living today, he has covered almost all genre successfully.

At 10:29 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

krishnan, i've heard of that one. one of his most popular I think. Will give it a shot the next time I feel like picking up a King book :)

Kumar, my reading hasn't expanded that much. but do want to give non-fiction a shot sometime soon :)

mitr, i've seen a couple of of his series on TV too :)

bart, definitely worth applauding :)

jai, considering I've spent the last 15 yrs out of chennai, I'm probably not the right person to answer that question :)

babu, I think King did give a real feel to the story. as i said, his descriptions and imagery were superb. I think horror just didn't work for me like fantasy(Harry Potter) or sentiments(Kite Runner), thats all :)


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