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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

Review: REVIVAL, Stephen King

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"King goes back to his paranormal roots in spectacular style"


A spectacularly dark and electrifying novel about addiction, religion, music and what might exist on the other side of life.

In a small New England town, in the early 60s, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister, Charles Jacobs. Soon they forge a deep bond, based on their fascination with simple experiments in electricity.

Decades later, Jamie is living a nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll. Now an addict, he sees Jacobs again - a showman on stage, creating dazzling 'portraits in lightning' - and their meeting has profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil's devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.

This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It's a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe.


King goes back to his paranormal roots in spectacular style, following a foray into straight crime with Mr Mercedes. Revival expertly spans decades, telling the tale initially through the eyes of a six-year-old boy and really capturing all those little things which are so important to a young child. His descriptions of the young James playing with his toy soldiers is really endearing. The voice grows and changes as the narrator ages – and that takes real skill.

The pastor, Charles Jacobs, is James’s friend, mentor, and teacher – he even uses his fascination for electrical experiments to help James’s family. Then disaster strikes. The pastor’s grief is palpable: the scenes where his wife and child die are heart-breaking and horrifying. It isn’t hard to imagine his pain – and to understand his anger and bitterness, as he slides into sinister experiments with electricity.

The whole story was utterly absorbing. My only criticism is that the end felt a little rushed. Certain loose ends were not tied up tidily enough for my liking, and it left me wanting more. There were still so many questions that I had. Ultimately though, I suppose that is also a testament to King’s expertise: he drew me into the lives of his characters so much that perhaps the end always would have come too soon.

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