11/22/63 – Stephen King – book review
My granddad died when I was 14 years old. My grandmother had died the previous year, so their belongings had to be divided up amongst the family. Along with various other things, we got the books. Until then I had been reading the likes of Brontë and Orwell, my granddad had been a horror fan, I started to poke through his collection, I picked up The Dark Half, and things have never been the same since.
As I got older I started to read less of the supernatural stuff, and I slowly forgot about Stephen King, someone mentioned 11/22/63 to me recently and I do like a bit of time travel, so I thought I’d give it a go. It’s a whopping 849 pages, and I don’t like e-Readers, so I think I got a bit of a workout while reading it.
It’s about a man who travels back in time to attempt to prevent the assassination of John F Kennedy. King had to do a lot of research for this one, which isn’t his usual thing. He says at the end of the book that after doing all this reading he’s pretty certain that Oswald did shoot Kennedy but I’ve seen the movie JFK and I’m not so sure. Certainly reading 11/22/63 and then watching JFK have made me want to read more about that day in Texas, but I expect if I started with a subject like that I’d never see the end of it.
He wants to stop the assassination because if Kennedy had lived, he’d have ended the Cold War, and not gone in to Vietnam. But the time traveling portal only goes back to 1958, so he has to wait five years before he can do it, so we spend the five years there with him. But he learns that everything a person does effects everything else. Every one of your actions results in an reaction from someone else – every interaction you have affects someone else’s life. So, can he alter history in such a big way without repercussions?
King says he had the idea for this story in 1971, but he soon abandoned the novel. He says in On Writing that he does this quite frequently. I think it works much better nowadays, traveling back from 1971 to 1958 wouldn’t provide the wonderful contrasts it does traveling as from 2011 does.
Those 849 pages flew by. I didn’t feel like I was reading, I felt like I was there, in the late 1950s and early 1960s America. I read most of it while my husband was in Canada over the weekend, so I only had the book and the dogs for company. The dogs were restless because my husband was away and they kept waking me up, each time I had been dreaming I was in the 1950s. King describes the music, the towns, the fashions, the perfect dialogue and you just forget that you’re reading. Until your arms ache from holding up those 849 pages and you have to go and have a rest.