Book Review: The Green Mile

‘Sometimes there is absolutely no difference at all between salvation and damnation…’

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As a massive Stephen King fan, I thought that I had read pretty much everything worth reading that King has written (with the exception of the Dark Tower series which is still on my list). While I was aware of The Green Mile because of the brilliant Tom Hanks movie, for some reason I had got it into my tiny mind that the source material was a novella or a short story so I had never bothered to seek it out. In actual fact, The Green Mile was a serialised novel, directly influenced in terms of publishing style by Charles Dickens, and was released in six parts in the summer of 1996.

After picking up the full novel in the always reliable book section of HMV, it became clear that when published together, these six parts certainly form a full length novel and that I had been wrong to dismiss The Green Mile all those years ago. Just like I was wrong to dismiss olives, and like I was wrong to dismiss the band Pearl Jam. I am often wrong is the theme that seems to be recurring here.

Paul Edgecombe was the block supervisor at the Cold Mountain Penitentiary death row, nicknamed ‘The Green Mile’, when double murderer John Coffey (‘like the drink but spelt different’) arrived on the Mile and changed everything forever.

If you have seen the film then the plot and events of the book will be very familiar to you as they are pretty much identical. The fact that the most successful Stephen King film adaptations are the ones that stray the least from the source material (with the exception of The Shining) is a testament to King’s unique power as a story teller.

The Green Mile is magic realism more than anything else but it has elements of horror and as with all of King’s best work, the real horror is not in the ghosts and ghouls but in the crushing weight of administration and unseen tragedy that lurks behind every suburban door and on every American news station. King is unrivalled in modern literature as a writer that can pick apart the minutiae of everyday life and present it as something both beautiful and grotesque. The Green Mile does all this while remaining compelling and nerve shattering.

I’m of the controversial opinion that as a story writer, Stephen King is unrivalled in modern literature. The Green Mile is just another in a long line of incredible works that goes some way to proving this theory.

For the top 10 Stephen King film adaptations, click here.

For the top 10 Stephen King horror novels, click here.