Review: 11.22.63 by Stephen King

Book cover of 11.22.63 by Stephen King

You have no idea how much effort it is for myself and other British bloggers to type out that book title. It’s painstakingly slow – ‘One-One-Two… No, that can’t be right. There is no 22nd month. Two-Two-One… Is that right? It must be. Oh wait, no. One-One…’ I swear I’m going to start a damned petition to give this book a logical name.

Plot summary – WHAT IF you could go back in time and change the course of history? WHAT IF the watershed moment you could change was the JFK assassination? 11.22.63, the date that Kennedy was shot – unless . . .

King takes his protagonist Jake Epping, a high school English teacher from Lisbon Falls, Maine, 2011, on a fascinating journey back to 1958 – from a world of mobile phones and iPods to a new world of Elvis and JFK, of Plymouth Fury cars and Lindy Hopping, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life – a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

As the Lit Addicted Brit so famously (kind of) said – ‘THIS is why I read!’

This book is amazing, and it broke me. There may as well be no other books. It’s long and occasionally heavy, but it genuinely stopped being just a story for me. I cared more than was reasonable about all the characters and felt so tense over certain plot twists I could have been sick. This is a story about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But not really. It’s also a story of time travel, morality, romance, science fiction and friendship, with a little bit of creepiness thrown in for good measure. This is Stephen King, after all.

Being British, I had very little knowledge about Kennedy’s assassination – the extent of my Presidential information tends to revolve around their vampire hunting skills. However, this is not a hindrance to 11.22.63 in the slightest. It doesn’t presuppose you know anything at all, but judging by the amount of care and detail that has clearly gone into researching this book, you’ll be an expert by the end.

That said, it’s written very accessibly. It’s definitely not for children (however much you may want them to learn their history), as some of the more violent scenes even made me feel ill. The tone is vaguely similar to The Gunslinger but as we all know how much I liked that (stop talking about your penis, Roland), it’s fairly obvious the two aren’t otherwise much alike.

I actually wrote in my notes how it was less creepy than Stephen King’s other books, but then I felt obliged to cross it out after a week of being convinced something was Watching Me from the darkness. It is creepy, but it’s hard to ascertain why. It’s certainly not meant to be a horror book; at face value it’s merely a historical novel. There is something though – something that maybe means you turn the hallway light on instead of wandering down it alone at night. It still haunts me now, so there are definitely two levels to 11.22.63 – the basic time-travel story with a darker layer slipped underneath.

The ending broke my heart and mind into so many little tiny pieces that I could barely function. I just kind of… sat there for a very long time, contemplating how everything could have ended up the way it did. It’s perfect and it fits the story, well, perfectly but oh how it hurt me! I hated it. Well, I didn’t hate it; I understand it. But I kind of hate it.

I know this is a rambling (and probably useless for everybody who isn’t me) review, but I have literally nothing bad to say about this book. Every word has a purpose and every character is historically and fictionally relevant. It would make a brilliant film and it’s easily, easily the best book of 2012 at Booking in Heels.

Read my review of The Gunslinger or visit Stephen King’s website.

 

Comments

  1. Ellie says:

    Bloody hell… I sold my hardcover already (TOO BIG, STEPHEN KING) but I guess I'll have to get me a paperback copy rather more promptly than I'd anticipated! I love the fact that you could hardly get your feelings into words (but you did, and they made COMPLETE sense to me, by the way) – that's kind of the mark of a seriously amazing book, I think. "I just kind of… sat there for a very long time" means a lot more than "OMG IT WAS TOTALLY AWESOME AND YOU SHOULD LIKE TOTALLY BUY IT WITH CHERRIES ON TOP". Job done, soldier, stand down… 🙂

    1. Hanna says:

      Yeah, I ended up downloading this on my barely-used Kindle because the book was just too damn heavy. It's worth every page, but God it's big.

      Bless you and your understanding of my 50 lines of garbled mush.

  2. Laura says:

    Duuuuude, you have made the MOST excited about this out of alll the reviews I've read! So good work with that. Yeah, I'm really excited to read this, but alas it will have to wait for… However many Stephen Kings I have to read before it. Ah, this strange and heady path I have chosen… Haha.

    1. Hanna says:

      Go off the path and read it now! Or read ALL the others tomorrow and then savour this one over the weekend? 🙂

  3. I have pretty much written this all over the Internet this evening but by golly do I want to read this very soon!! I mean, I wanted to read it a lot when you texted me to tell me to do it (because I will apparently read all of the things that you tell me to…) but now? Even more! What a fabulously compelling review! Does it have subliminal messaging?! *suspicious face*

    I love that it is so much more than a historical fiction novel. I mean, I expected as much, but it's nice to have it confirmed! Just…argh! I want to read it! Stupid current book…

    Oh, and you are right about the RIDICULOUS title. I think I remember you saying this somewhere but would it really have been so hard to release it in the UK as 22.11.63 so we could all easily work out what date is being referred to?! And the stupid title hurts my brain so much that I just looked at that date and pondered whether it was right. Stephen King is making me question date-writing!

    1. Hanna says:

      No, it has bliminal messaging! I'm hardly being subtle. I mean, there are books I think you should read but then there are *flashing lights* BOOKS I THINK YOU SHOULD READ.

      I did say this to you somewhere! I don't know where or when, but it's still a valid comment. Everytime I see the title I have to stare at it for a few seconds to make sure it's right!

  4. Was given this for Christmas last year, and it's still sitting in the bookcase (think it's something to do with it being the hardcover and it just looks so HEAVY!). Your review has just moved it up to number 1 on my to read list, and I shall be reading it as soon as I finish my current book. Can't wait to start it now – thanks for a great review!

  5. Wow! A book that provokes that much enthusiasm is a definite must-read. I've been vaguely intrigued in a "maybe I'll get round to reading this one day" sort of way, but now I've just mentally added it to my to-read list. Great review, and I'm now really curious about this book.

    1. And there I go, typing "11.22.63" into the local library catalogue site and wondering why no results came up. It just doesn't occur to me to write the date the other way around – despite just a couple of minutes ago reading your comment about US dates being the wrong way around.

    2. Hanna says:

      I KNOW! Books have different UK/US titles all the time – I don't see why they couldn't change it when it's actually necessary!

      But seriously, read it anyway….

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