Humble Book Review: Dolores Claiborne

What would you do if you were stuck in a loveless and violent relationship? Would you sit idly by, paralyzed by fear, or would you make a stand and reach a level ground? And after a long time together, with a growing family, if you found out a dark and sinister secret, would things change?

Dolores Claiborne, in the novel of her namesake, reminisces about her past and her struggle to remain on top, not to be fooled by her abusive husband. She opens up about her history only days after her employer, Vera Donovan, passes away in suspicious circumstances. Suspicious because Dolores, at 65 years old, was Vera’s head housekeeper, and also because on the small island they lived on, Dolores had developed a reputation warranting wariness.

Throughout the novel we only delve into Dolores’s memories, which is told in the way of a casual interview between the accused, an officer and a stenographer. There are several key moments in Dolores’s life which are worth knowing for Vera’s death, and for the protagonists’s character in general; her relationship to her husband, and to her children, particularly her eldest daughter.

There are a few great moments of suspense peppered throughout, and its all told from her very casual style of storytelling. It works quite well, since King normally gives us that corner-of-the-diner type casual vibe with his novels. This is at it’s best a character novel, and you do want to know what had happened to made her so hardened in spirit and sharp of tongue.

But, this is one of King’s lesser known works for a reason. There is some writing style experimentation going on here, with the pure singular retelling of a life, and also no chapter breaks at all can make it seem like a tiring stream of consciousness. After finishing the book, I found it wasn’t overly bad, but it didn’t really captivate me either. It’s as if this was really meant to be a novella, but it was padded out just a bit, so it could be a standalone novel.

In fact, due to the somewhat significant connection it has with Gerald’s Game, I’d have thought they’d go well together in some sort of collection.

Either way, not a bad read, but there are many King novels that rank higher. But if you’re mad on King novel cross-references like me, at least you’ll get that excited feeling of recognition.