Christine – Stephen King

I first read Christine sometime in 2010, having bought it at the train station on my way to visit home. My boyfriend and I recently watched the movie on Netflix, and since so many things were different/wrong (although anything is better than Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining…but don’t get me started on that one), it made me want to read the book again.

Christine is the story of Arnie Cunningham and his ’58 Plymouth Fury, Christine. Arnie, a painfully awkward ugly duckling who has never realized the destiny of that proverbial swan, has only one true friend, Dennis Guilder. But after purchasing Christine from Roland D. LeBay, an old, retired curmudgeon who lives on the outskirts of Libertyville, PA, Arnie and Dennis begin to grow apart. Arnie has been spending almost all his spare time restoring Christine, and seems to have time for no one and nothing else…until Leigh Cabot comes along. But Christine is his first love, and she won’t let anyone—anyone—come between them.

What I really like about this book is that there’s a steady, low level of tension throughout. It’s like a good horror movie where you’re on the edge of your seat the whole time, just knowing that there’s going to be something around the next corner…but when there isn’t, there’s no relief, just more tension. In Christine, this tension comes mainly from the fact that the first and third sections of the book are narrated in the first person by Dennis, who often makes offhand comments like “if things hadn’t gotten so scary so quickly.” From the first page, you’re thinking “Okay, this is creepy…” and it just keeps getting creepier until finally you’re like “OH MY GOD THIS CAR KILLS PEOPLE.” Exactly like that.

(Note: I apologize if that’s giving away something there—I’m going on the assumption that most people know the basic plot of Christine. I promise it’s not a big spoiler.)

Something else that’s wonderful about this book is that the characters are very real. (I know, I know, I say this about a lot of books.) But here it’s especially true. Dennis is the ultimate high school senior, concerned mostly about girls and football; his younger sister, Ellie, is the epitome of a flighty fourteen-year-old girl; Arnie and his parents perfectly portray the troubles many families go through when the beloved only chick is about to leave the nest. The only person who seems a little less than believable is Leigh; she almost seems too perfect. But the rest of them…the book could be a true story. Except for the fact that the car kills people, that is.

At its most simple, Christine is a love triangle between a boy, his car, and his girlfriend. At its most complex, it’s a story of the descent into obsession—and the transformations, good and bad, that can result from it. In short, it’s great.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥


15 thoughts on “Christine – Stephen King

  1. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for CHRISTINE. I really love the way he switches from Dennis’s point-of-view to Arnie’s and then back again. I wasn’t crazy about the movie either (although the special effects work on the car itself were surprisingly good, especially considering when it was made). I did like Kubrick’s version of THE SHINING, although it wasn’t the most “literal” translation ever…

    • The thing with Kubrick’s version of The Shining is that I probably would have liked it as a stand-alone movie, but I’m totally a purist when it comes to movies based on books. I had also already read The Shining at least three times by the time I saw the movie, so I was waiting for all these things to happen that never happened.

      But I do have to agree that the special effects in Christine were pretty awesome. Loved the flaming car running down Buddy Repperton and then showing up back at the garage totally charred. 🙂

      • Christine was never a particular favorite King film adaptation of mine, although I enjoy the movie and would definitely watch it again. Based on your review it sounds like I need to put the book on my to-read list 🙂

        I find your perspective on The Shining interesting because I’ve read that King himself was displeased with the film version. The Shining is one of my all time favorite horror films, but after reading your comments, I MUST read the book! It must’ve been exciting to see the film after reading the book 3 times (!), even though it was a disappointment. I felt that way about Let The Right One In when I first saw the movie, but eventually came to accept it as its own piece of art.

        Another one (The Shining) for the list!

        • Yup, if you look at the wikipedia entry for The Shining miniseries, it says that they reason it was made is because King was so displeased with Kubrick’s version. I thought the miniseries was great – I actually saw it before I saw the movie, but after I had already read the book several times 🙂 It’s long, but after you read the book, it might be worth trying out. I personally found it was cast a lot better than the theatrical film (even though it’s one of his more famous roles, I didn’t like Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrence) and much truer to the book. I think it’s coming up in my queue on netflix and I’m excited to see it again!

          • I think it will be really difficult for me to separate The Shining book from the movie, but hopefully I’ll have the same experience with The Shining that I did with IT – I had no trouble falling into the world King originally intended which really surprised me.

            • My boyfriend saw the movie The Shining first, but after hearing all my complaining about how different it was from the book, he finally read it to shut me up and ended up thinking the book was a lot better. 🙂 I don’t know that this will necessarily be your experience, but I think you’ll definitely at least enjoy the book, even if you don’t like it better than the movie.

    • Ooh, you definitely should! The Shining is on the 1001 Books list, so that might be a good place to start. My personal favorite is It, but that’s a big one to start with (it’s over 1000 pages). So is The Stand, but that’s another classic. I’ve read quite a few so if you’re having trouble deciding between a few to start with, let me know and I’ll try to help you decide!

        • The Stand TV series was on Netflix recently… not sure if it’s still available. What did you think of that series, Bridget?

          • I’ve only seen pieces of it on TV (it is eight hours long, after all, or at least they stretched it out over eight hours on TV), but I thought it was pretty good. I think I saw most of the first six hours and then turned it off because I’m really really squeamish when it comes to violence on film, and I knew what happened at the end already and decided I didn’t need to actually watch it. Weirdly enough, violence rarely affects me when I read about it…I just can’t watch it. But as with The Shining miniseries, I thought it was cast really well, perhaps excepting Molly Ringwald as Frannie.

  2. OH NO! This is bringing back bad memories!

    This was the first and only Stephen King book I read, and I was so scared! Needless to say, I am not very good with horror or suspense… (as I say this, I remember hiding behind the lounge when Flipper was on cos I was scared about what would happen!! 🙂 )

    My husband loves theses novels however, and they sit hauntingly on the shelf below my Austen books!

    • Some King books are more disturbing than others. There are some that I hoped to never read again (Misery, Pet Sematery, and Needful Things come to mind), although I’ll have to now to complete my SK project!

      It’s weird how my preferences seesaw back and forth between stuff like Stephen King and Jane Austen, but inexplicably, I love them both!

  3. Ah, another SK to add to my TBR pile – I don’t know anything about this one really so it will be all the more of a surprise.

    Oh, and I also go back and forth between genres – I love crime fic and I love the classics (depends on what mood I’m in)

  4. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’d Give a Theme Song To « Bridget's Books

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