The last two weeks I’ve had the joy—sheer rapture—of reading a novel slow, every-word-slow, calculated as I imagine the writer penned and intended it. Smiling at masterful turns of phrase, laughing when appropriate and jaw tensed when anger at a character—no, a person—gave me cause.
Yearning to arrive at the next important event the writer maneuvered me toward—at the same time fascinated by the lyrical sentences luring me down a magical path—I journeyed. Caught up in a world very much like my own, yet not at all, I traveled, experiencing the life of another beyond my own finite personality.
The novel was recommended to me with lofty platitudes. I was skeptical, but hopeful, as I always am when I open to Chapter One. A slow and good read, or a fast read making me a bad reader? (See last week’s post about the difference).
I’ve seen the movie based on the book, a favorite we own and watch at least once a year. Usually a book is better than the movie adaptation, but on a few occasions the movie outperforms the book. Still, I hoped and was not disappointed.
The Green Mile is such a book.
I am not a Stephen King fan, have tried to read a couple of his other novels, and found I was a bad reader. I’ve enjoyed several of his movie adaptations—Shawshank Redemption comes to mind—but never eagerly awaited his next book, which made The Green Mile all that more enjoyable and mystifying.
“For those of you who think that Stephen King only writes horror fiction, think again . . .” San Diego Union Tribune
The Green Mile is great on so many levels:
the viewpoint of the story (the protagonist, the “I” of first person) is multi-faceted and approachable like a friendship you enjoy over a cup of coffee;
the setting (both present and 1932) is believable, each demonstrated by tidbits of the “familiars” from each era;
the backfill arrives expertly (which is the majority of the text), stitched into the storyline with precision so the reader is never uncertain where they are;
secondary characters develop from the protagonist’s views and opinions as well as by their own actions and dialogue, giving each a “completeness” lacking in many otherwise well-written novels;
the story events flow naturally—at times leisurely, others at break-neck speed—with mysteries enticing and drawing the reader further on the adventure.
Overall a fantastic read determined by this avid fantasy reader, which The Green Mile hints at, and if pigeon-holed, is considered Magical Realism, or to a lesser degree, Urban Fantasy—but defining the book does not do the prose justice for it stretches any barriers that can be associated with it, including “historical” since it’s “time-line” is eighty-five years ago (64 years before its publishing date of 1996).
Besides being a wonderful novel, its publishing history is equally unique: The Green Mile was published as a serialized story, six segments published monthly as small, manageable parts (the completed version clocks in at 536 pages).
Other delights stood out while reading the novel, but those you can discover by reading and living the story on your own—you won’t be disappointed. I will certainly re-read The Green Mile, probably many times, enthralled with the premise, the writing, and the myriad of surprises waiting the next page turn.
I dabbed my eyes a few times during the reading, and I’m not ashamed to say so—those were the best moments.
See you on the next page,
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