“Dolores Clairborne” by Stephen King Review

Dolores Claiborne

Dolores Claiborne

Author:  Stephen King

Released:  1992

Dolores Claiborne is about a woman who cleans and cleans the house of a rich and particular lonesome widow. The book is told entirely by Dolores, as a narrative of the events that have led to her being interrogated by police. The story encompasses a few decades, from Dolores’s beginning working for Vera, to the death of Dolores’s husband and the death of Vera. In addition to those characters, there is also Dolores’s daughter Selena and that’s pretty much the extent of the case of the book.

Much like Gerald’s Game, the events in this book involve very few characters and lots of buildup with little action. King released the two books at the same time and both books also deal with a Solar Eclipse on the same date. The supernatural connection between the two woman in the solar eclipse storyline doesn’t really add anything to either book, aside from the easter egg for close readers discovering King’s shared universe. Of the two books, I enjoyed the plot of this book more but the book overall less than Gerald’s Game.

My main reason for not enjoying this book was the gimmicky writing style King uses. I’m not a huge fan of dialect, and there’s a decent amount here. Even worse though, the entire book is told without chapters, paragraph breaks, or any other stopping point until a 3 page collection of newspaper articles at the end. When Dolores speaks to somebody in the present, we don’t hear what they say, and instead hear a response like “What’s that Andy? I suppose I was hiding something.”

While it’s impressive that King was able to tell an entire book like this, it also wasn’t particularly enjoyable to read. King’s greatest strength and fault as a writer are his ability to write at length on any subject. At his best, he can introduce new characters and tell a compelling story about them that is totally unnecessary for a story but adds plenty of flavor. Here though, King seems to ramble on endlessly because when his narrator stops talking the book will end. Despite a shorter page count for a King novel, this book felt long even though not much happened. It is certainly not one of his scarier ones, instead being more of a character story with a twist ending. Overall, not to my taste.

(Note – While I was reading this, I did picture Kathy Bates as Vera based on Dolores’s description of the older version of her.  I was surprised to find out that Bates actually played Dolores herself in the movie version, and that was not at all what I was picturing.)


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