Since my last two books have been more than a little disappointing, I thought that I would go back to an author that has been pretty consistently high in my estimation, Stephen King. I chose Dolores Claiborne because I vaguely remember watching the film adaptation many years ago and rather enjoying it. I wanted to see if the book was as good.
Dolores Claiborne is the confession of the eponymous Ms Claiborne after she had driven herself to her local police station. Widely suspected of killing her long-term employer, she decides that she is going to make a clean breast of it and reveal all: about how she killed her husband and got away with it, and how her employer’s death was an accident.
Stephen King states in his book On Writing that he never starts with a character, always with a “What If…” scenario, and doesn’t have much time for character studies as a result. I can imagine that this will seem unlikely with regards to Dolores Claiborne, considering just how much her character impacts this novel. Due to the fact that it is a first person narrative, and an explicit confession at that, it is an intensely personal and intimate experience to read. I think that, as a result, your enjoyment of the book will depend largely on how much you like Dolores herself. I personally rather liked her, perhaps relating to the fact that she is a perennially-grumpy bitch by her own admission. Throughout the book, she displays a refreshing amount of understanding about herself and an unwillingness to suffer fools kindly, whether that foolishness come from other people or herself. That is a large part of what drives her reactions to the situations that arise from her relationships with both her husband Joe and her employer Vera, so if you like your protagonists to be a little softer and kinder, then you may wish to look elsewhere. For me, Dolores Claiborne was a more or less perfect novel, with some really vivid characterisation and revelations that are flawlessly timed. I personally wish that there was more of Vera, but then I have a bit of a weak spot for characters who almost revel in their own viciously spiteful natures and yet still remain classy as hell.
For me, this was a compelling character study with complex relationships and well-timed plot reveals. I personally found nothing to fault it with. I would say that your enjoyment of Dolores Claiborne will ultimately depend on how much you like Dolores herself though, so if bitchy old ladies aren’t your thing then you may wish to skip this one. I’d be more than happy to recommend this though. 5/5
Next review: The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis