08 January 2011

The Green Mile

As the top prison guard on Louisiana's Cold Mountain Penitentiary's death row in the 1930s, Paul Edgecome saw some strange things . . . most of them disturbing, some of them amusing, and one thing that was amazing: John Coffey. Edgecombe initially has little sympathy for Coffey, a towering African American convicted of a horrible double murder. Truthfully, Edgecombe has little time to worry about Coffey. Between a painful medical condition and contending with a petulant well-connected colleague named Percy Whetmore, Edgecombe has enough to contend with. But then Edgecombe learns of Coffey's secret gift, a revelation that leads Edgecombe to suspect that the gentle giant is not at all guilty of the crime he was accused of committing. And that's when things get interesting. ^^

I am a bit ashamed to admit this, but I had never read any Stephen King before reading The Green Mile. I know, I know. See . . . I have really enjoyed a lot of Stephen King movies and some of his essays on writing and wanted to read his books, but I never got around to it. Shortly before I left home a few months ago, I saw a copy of this book for sale at the library. I loved the film version of this story, so I reasoned the book would be just as good . . . if not better. And, indeed, for the most part, it was.

King builds an intriguing plot that delves into the nature of friendship and the realm of the supernatural in a manner that is haunting but not necessarily scary. Though I had watched the movie and was aware of the plot, King's story was so engrossing I was anxious and tense while reading it despite knowing what happens. Even more importantly, it's heartwarming in a creepy sort of way. If the end doesn't have you a little misty-eyed, there's something wrong with you. *dabs eyes* The cast is colorful and memorable. Edgecombe himself is a likeable protagonist, though he does get a bit overshadowed by the larger-than-life Coffey. Kudos to King for creating an absolutely heinous antagonist in Percy. I wanted to beat him with a rubber hose . . . repeatedly and with much malice.

My only problem is that since this is a novel set in the Depression-era Deep South, I was expecting more atmopshere from that period and era. Edgecombe's narration is compelling and engaging, but I never could shake the fact that the voice sounded like a moden middle-aged guy *looks at King* and not an elderly man reminsicing about his past. And, no offense to native New Englander King, but the narration also lacked a certain Southern quality, as well. Some of the dialogue and narration sounded off to my Southern ear. (Yes, I am petty. I am the Queen of Petty. Nay, I am the Empress of NitPicky and the Duchess of Overbearing Attention to Detail. Bow before me. ^^) This didn't detract seriously from the story, but as a reader who relishes atmosphere--and is passionate about Southern fiction--I didn't find the atmopshere convincing. That being said, the plot and characters more than made up for this.

The Green Mile is a bittersweet exploration of faith, fate, and sacrifice. The powerfully evocative plot is the main draw, but the complex characters also add to this superb novel. If you like supernatural fare that is not ghoulish, give this book a read. I definitely am adding more King to my reading list. Misery being next. ^^

Next week: Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire
This Week in Literary History:

12 January 1876: American writer Jack London is born. Most people are familiar with London's gritty, naturalistic survival novels set in Alaska, specifically White Fang--which I am going to reread in one of my American lit classes this semester--and Call of the Wild, but I highly recommend his, ahem, chilling short story "To Build A Fire." I dare you to read it and not feel bone-numbingly cold afterward. :D


  1. Well, I've learned another thing today then. I loved the movie, but I never knew The Green Mile was a Stephen King story. It's not typical of his full-on-scary-supernatural style, like Carrie, or It, so I never made the connection.

  2. I've read several of King's horror novels, and have seen this movie, but haven't read it. He's one of my favorite authors, for sure. Glad you got a chance to dig in!

  3. @Botanist: I didn't know it was a King movie, either, until I saw the book cover.

    @Mysti: I definitely want to read more King novels when I get a chance. I think you'll like this one since you're already a fan. :)

    Thanks to both of you for commenting! :)

  4. Yay! You are doing Streetcar next!

    My mother and I love this movie. We watch it almost every time it comes on tv. I suppose I should read the book. I will definitely put it on my list.

    I just saw True Grit and loved it so much. I'm not a big fan of Westerns but I really like this movie. It was definitely the girl. She is now my favorite character in a movie. I just thought that I should tell you about this. :D

  5. Yes! It may be another couple of weeks because I have been swamped with homework--hence the lateness of my reply, which I am so sorry about!--but it will be the next review posted. :)

    You would probably really enjoy the book! I can't wait to hear what you think of it.

    I can't wait to see True Grit. I love Coen Brothers' movies, and I have a soft spot for well-made Westerns. Have you read the novel by Clinton Portis? It's quite good.

  6. I haven't read the book but I really want to. I contemplated renting the original, until I heard that it wasn't told through Mattie's perspective, at which time I decided not to. You really need to see the movie, it was amazing and totally should have won at least one Golden Globe.

    Good luck on your homework! :) I honestly wish I could say I had some but, seeing as I haven't been at school for a whole week, I don't have much. :) So I am working on my history papers.

  7. I've never read any of King's novel either, but I might start with this one. Thanks for posting.
    By the way,there's an award waiting for you on my blog:

  8. Thanks so much for the award, Liz! :)

  9. Sweet_Tart Girl, I will definitely see True Grit. I might have to wait until it comes out on video, but I definitely want to see it. :)

    Thanks! Which history papers are you working on--the French one?

  10. Both. Though I have decided to go with how women actually started loving their children in the early 20th century and how that has led to the modern sense of a family. I just hope I can find enough research on it. My other one is about the drastic change in American literarture during the Roaring Twenties. Which reminds me that I actually have to work on those again...

  11. *nerd squeal* The American Lit one sounds right up my alley. :D