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Book Review: Rose Madder by Stephen King


Rose Madder by Stephen King

I know some pretty hardcore Stephen King fans who hate Rose Madder. I reread it recently and, while it isn’t ever going to be my favorite book of his, I still thought it was a fun read. But hey, I’m a sucker for stories that have paintings that change when you’re not looking, so I’m not the most objective party.

It gets going like so:

Rose has been married to her savage brute of a husband, Norman, for 14 years. Finally he crosses a line that even this poor battered woman can’t tolerate and she leaves him.

There’s a problem, of course: Norman is a skilled police officer. Not the easiest person to hide from. Particularly when he controls their money and has resources to track her with.

But she runs anyway and tries to part together a sort of new life while constantly looking over her shoulder. I think about this every single time I read a book or watch a show where someone is on the run: I don’t have the nerves to always be wondering when the bad stuff is going to show up. I’d go nuts.

Rose winds up getting a fine old job as an audiobook reader, she meets a kind man who loves her, and yes, she buys a weird painting that has a peculiar hold over her.

When Norman eventually shows up and the showdown commences, the painting will play its part. But I can’t tell you more about that.

I find Rose Madder one of King’s most suspenseful books. The horror doesn’t come from monsters or ghosts or vampires or whatever. It’s just one incredibly cruel human dominating another. I knew that he would eventually catch her again, but I didn’t want him to. I think in the right hands, Rose could be a sickeningly intense chase movie.

Of course, he gets his in the end, so it all worked out. If you’re a King fan, I’m reasonably certain that you will enjoy the story, but like I said, my ability to predict how people react to this book has not been infallible.

Can anyone else think of a good book where a painting changes? Now, after professing my fondness for them, the only thing I can think of off the top of my head is a scene from the movie In the Mouth of Madness.


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