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October 19, 2010

Different Seasons

by Stephen King

A collection of four novellas: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (which inspired the film The Shawshank Redemption), Apt Pupil (also made into a movie, I believe), The Body (made into the most excellent film Stand By Me), The Breathing Method.

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption is the tale of a man wrongly convicted for killing his wife and her lover and his eventual prison break. I won’t reveal how he did it. It is a finely written piece and very compelling with strong characterisation. Differs quite significantly from the movie (which also has its merits).

Apt Pupil is very dark, a fairly lengthy story about the disturbing relationship between an old man and a young boy. The boy discovers the old man’s secret – that he was once a Nazi commandant at a concentration camp – and such is his thirst for war stories that he blackmails the old man into telling him everything about those dark times during WWII.

The Body is about four country boys on a journey of discovery. It is a coming-of-age tale about a quartet of pre-adolescent boys who trek for miles to see the body of a dead boy. Another beautifully written story and a real page-turner. If like me you are a fan of Stand By Me, then The Body is well worth the read – if my memory serves me correctly, the movie is very true to the original.

The Breathing Method sets out as a story about an old gentlemen’s club, but as is frequently the case with King, there is another story within the story. The club is a place where men gather and tell stories, and this particular tale is told by an old doctor. His story concerns a pregnant woman who came to him long ago, a very determined single woman in an age where becoming pregnant out of wedlock earned the worst kind of reputation. The “Breathing Method” was just that: a breathing method used during labour to help ease the pain. Suffice it to say, the story comes to a chilling end.

All in all a great collection. I used to steer clear of King because of his reputation as a horror writer, but his talents clearly extend far beyond the genre. He is a compelling writer, a great story teller and a painter of vivid characters.

James’ out-of-five star rating: **** (verging on five!)

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