According to Goodreads, I’ve read 33 of Stephen King’s books – since getting bitten by the bug through some of his best a few years back, I’ve been slowly working my way through the rest of them. Rose Madder isn’t one of his best, nor is it one of his worst. Instead it’s a decent book, albeit with a harrowing subject matter, that would have been a lot better had it been missing its supernatural elements.
Rosie Daniels has spent fourteen years in an abusive marriage with her cop husband, Norman. Having slowly come to the realisation that her husband will one day kill her, Rosie makes a spur of the moment decision to flee with nothing but the clothes on her back and her husband’s credit card. Trying to start a new life as far away from Norman as possible, Rosie comes across a painting that seems to be calling to her. Meanwhile, Norman isn’t going to just let Rosie walk out of his life, and is using all of his skills to track her down.
If you’re looking for some escapism during these first terrifying few weeks of the Trump administration, then this isn’t the book for you. The depiction of Rosie’s marriage, from the visceral opening that made me feel slightly faint to the violently racist, misogynist and homophobic thoughts of Norman’s chapters, could definitely be very distressing for many readers. This part of the story also happens to be the book at its best – far better than the whole ‘supernatural painting’ thing. While I did get the bonus of starting to spot a few nods to the Dark Tower sprinkled about, every time we spent some time with the painting I’d feel like I’d been pulled out of the story somewhat, as well as ever so slightly bored, and I thought its part in the climax of the story had been far less effective than the parts set in the real world, which had me holding my breath while reading.
As I’ve been tending to read my way through King’s works chronologically, I’ve recently noticed that some of the writing tics that I’ve loved in his best books have started to grate in some of those that have come since. I’m hoping that doesn’t get worse the later I get…