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Dolores Claiborne Mass Market Paperback – December 1, 1993

4.5 out of 5 stars 316 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

More of a mystery than a horror novel, Dolores Claiborne contains only the briefest glances at the supernatural. The novel presents Stephen King as a writer experimenting with style and narrative, time and perspective. Fans looking for a skin-crawling, page-turning fright or an undead bloodbath will be disappointed, but a patient reader willing to savor King's leisurely study of character and island life will find many rewards. And all of this is not to say that the book is without suspense.

The story unfolds in one continuous chapter, told in the first person by the cranky, 65-year-old housekeeper, Dolores, who is explaining to police officers and a stenographer how and why she killed her husband, Joe, 30 years ago. At the same time, in her rambling monologue, she insists that she did not kill her longtime employer, Vera Donovan--notwithstanding what the residents of Little Tall Island may be whispering. Joe was a drinker, and, as Dolores gradually argues, he deserved to die for the horrifying crimes he committed against his family. But Vera, despite her cantankerous disposition as a lady governing her decaying estate with her precise rules about even the most mundane household chore ("Six pins! Remember to use six pins! Don't you let the wind blow my good sheets down to the corner of the yard!"), was a good woman--or at least not an evil one. She was the woman who hired the young Dolores and kept her on even after Dolores got pregnant again. Dolores cleaned and cared for her even as the old matron faded into senility.

Dolores Claiborne is a rich novel that recalls the regionalist writing of the turn of the century. It is a fine place for a skeptical newcomer--put off by King's reputation for outright terror--to start. And for fans, it is a book that offers new insights into an author who's an old favorite. --Patrick O'Kelley

From Publishers Weekly

King's portrait of a Maine housekeeper accused of her employer's murder--a nine-week PW bestseller--shows him to be a magnificent storyteller.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Signet; Reissue edition (December 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451177096
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451177094
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (316 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,065 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Doctor Sleep and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Stephen King answers critics who dismissed him as a "slick, horror writer" with "Dolores Claiborne." Written as one long chapter in the first person, in vernacular, King develops a character so strong that you are under the spell of a master storyteller. Cantankerous, blunt but sly Dolores has lived a long hard life. She is neither good nor bad, but has a fierce will and love for her family and a willingness to fight any and every battle to protect them.
The story is a taped interview with the police who suspect Dolores of killing her elderly employer, Vera Donovan, for whom Dolores has served as a housekeeper for over 40 years. Dolores thinks she must confess that she killed her husband Joe over 30 years ago to explain why she could not have killed her employer. As the story rolls, you are fascinated with the interplay between Dolores and Vera. Vera is a match for Dolores, equally strong minded and diverse. (Dolores is convinced Vera went senile just to aggravate her.) Her story of her marriage to the vile drunken Joe and her stealthy plans to kill him are riveting. Dolores can't remember any reason she married him except he had a "smooth, clear forehead." She is stealthy, not because she fears any person on this earth; she just wants to spare her children the knowledge that she killed their father. Nothing goes quite according to plan, and even powerful Dolores suffers long periods of mental exhaustion.
"Delores Claiborne" without monsters or the supernatural and told in an uneducated but perceptive, voice is brilliant. This is one of Stephen King's finest works and well worth the read.
-sweetmolly-Amazon Reviewer
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The conventional street wisdom is that the best movies adapted from Stephen King novels are the ones that do not mention they are adapted from Stephen King novels. Of course, if you look at the films "Stand By Me," "The Shawshank Redemption," and "Dolores Claiborne" as well as read the King stories they were based on, you would find that they are atypical works in that they do not have the supernatural elements we have expected from King ever since he published "Carrie." Consequently I am mulling over the idea that in some distant time there could be an emphasis on King's "non-horror" fiction that would study him as an example of a regional author and make an argument that even if he was the best selling author on the face of the planet at one time, that he was actually a decent written (i.e., the Charles Dickens of the 20th century).
"Dolores Claiborne" was written between October 1989-February 1992 (future generations of King scholars will have fun studying the overlap of his novels to create some tapestry of analytical insight) and the title character is a foul tempered, foul mouthed, old Yankee who has been living all her life on Little Tall Island off the coast of Maine. The novel is told in the first person by the 65-year-old Dolores, who has just been arrested for the murder of Vera Donovan, the even older richer lady who had been her longtime employer and who suddenly died in Dolores' care under extremely suspicious circumstances. In explaining what happened, Dolores not only tells her life story but also defends herself from the charge that she murdered Vera Donovan by explaining her involvement in the death of her husband Joe thirty years earlier on the day of the total eclipse.
It takes a while to get used to the way Dolores talks.
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Format: Hardcover
Written in the POV of the title character, and in the local dialect, this story took me a couple of pages to get into, but after that, it was a page turner.
Dolores is a tough and gritty woman and much of the story recounts her dealing with the stern and often cruel woman that she works for during a thirty plus year time span, her abusive husband and the towns rumors that she might be a murderer.
After reading "On Writing" my first King book, I thought I'd try something else and this was a good place to start. I wasn't interested in reading King in the past because I once picked up "Cujo" and happened to turn to a page that was filled with gross descriptions of violence.
But since I enjoyed the movie adaptation of this book as well as several others King has written, I thought it was time to put aside my previous concerns and read one of his novels. I guess if your looking for horror, blood, and the supernatural this book probably won't be as enjoyable as you'd hoped, but it is an engaging story and the main character is likable. I was rooting for Dolores almost from the start.
I doubt many King fans would need to bother reading a review like this, so if you got this far and are wondering if you should give one of his books a try for the first time, I recommend this novel as a good place to start.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Dolores Claiborne is not an easy read. Not because of the language or the storyline. But because of the story itself, which is quite un-King-like. He wrote many books about the supernatural, monsters and the like but few books about the true monsters - human beings. This book's about these monsters and it's more effective and seductive than King's other books. Don't expect any of his "usual" horror here, though.

The book discovers two mysterious death cases and the strange relationship between two woman who seem to have nothing in common. The first death case is of Vera Donovan, the woman Dolores worked for many years and has just died and Dolores is accused of killing her. Dolores and Vera are two women of different backgrounds, and seemingly different lives. The other death case is of Dolores' husband, who died long ago. How the two cases and the two women become intertwined is the key to the book and I don't want to spoil the fun. But this is only the frame.

What's within this frame is a masterpiece. The book is narrated by Dolores who makes a confession. In a one chapter, monologue style. Her confession introduces us to a woman who suffered a lot, whose life was anything but fun; however she possesses a stunning will to live. The characters she describes are vivid and she, herself is unbelievable. The story is a triumph over injustice and false beliefs.

As a man I was surprised how King knows the soul of women and how he knows what women could think of some situations and things (the starting quotation of the book is from Freud: "Woman! What does she want?"). However, the true motto of the book is one sentence from Vera: "Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has hold onto." True. How many people do you know who live this way?
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