Trigger Warning for Mentions of Sexual Abuse
Things have gotten on top of me a touch this week. I had my last two formal MA lectures and as such, opportunities to read and write have been thin on the ground. Despite this, though, I managed to once again dive into my stash of unread Stephen King and picked out “Dolores Claiborne”.
Dolores Claiborne is a sixty-five-year-old woman from Little Tall Island off the coast of Maine. Suspected of killing her elderly employer Vera Donovan, Dolores has gone to the police station to set things straight. No, she didn’t kill Vera. But she did kill her husband twenty-nine years before. And she’s going to explain how and why.
As a writer, I have nothing but positives. King structured the book to look like a transcript of a police tape and as such, its occasional lapses into phonetic language and colloquial turns of phrase work marvellously. Its lack of chapters and breaks also works alongside that.
And as a reader, I have almost nothing but praise as well. King has a great hand for female characters and I loved the way Dolores was both strong and vulnerable. He weaves comedy, tragedy and horror together in a way that few can manage.
I especially love that rather than being something supernatural involved, as was heavily implied in “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon”, this is simply a story of man’s inhumanity towards woman and domestic and sexual abuse. It’s all the more haunting for being something that could happen to any of us.
Not only that, but it also shows how even the strongest, most independent people can be rendered helpless in old age as Dolores paints a vivid picture of how Vera Donovan was in her youth as opposed to her old age, when she’s plagued by hallucinations and mental fog most days. It’s terrifying and it feels real.
Do I have any complaints? Yes, a few. The phonetic accent Dolores uses didn’t work for me because I had no reference point for what it should sound like. I’m English: I don’t know how a Maine accent would vary from standard American. Yet that didn’t ruin my enjoyment, so it wasn’t an insurmountable obstacle.
What did bother me was one aspect. During the latter parts of the story, there are two or three occasions where Dolores sees a young girl and senses that she’s in trouble. Having looked it up afterwards, I realise that it’s linked to another King story, “Gerald’s Game”, but not having read that, it made little sense and didn’t fit in with the rest of the narrative.
The book is so closely linked with Dolores, her story, her experiences, that having it segue to a little girl abused by her father and who is then in trouble just… didn’t work for me.
Despite that, I would highly recommend you check out “Dolores Claiborne”. She has a story to tell and it’s one well worth your attention and time.
Related Post: The Thursday Review: “Falling Man” by Don DeLillo
Collab: Personal is Political