The Green Mile
Author: Stephen King
Originally Published: 5th May 1997
Format: Kindle (548 pages)
Synopsis: Set in the 1930s at the Cold Mountain Penitentiary’s death-row facility, The Green Mile is the riveting and tragic story of John Coffey, a giant, preternaturally gentle inmate condemned to death for the rape and murder of twin nine-year-old girls. It is a story narrated years later by Paul Edgecomb, the ward superintendent compelled to help every prisoner spend his last days peacefully and every man walk the green mile to execution with his humanity intact.
Edgecomb has sent seventy-eight inmates to their date with “old sparky,” but he’s never encountered one like Coffey — a man who wants to die, yet has the power to heal. And in this place of ultimate retribution, Edgecomb discovers the terrible truth about Coffey’s gift, a truth that challenges his most cherished beliefs — and ours.
My Rating: ★★★★★
I picked up this book a few days ago after it had sat on my TBR for a very long time. I have loved the film for many, many years and its story has always held a special place in my heart. A story of faith, compassion and trust. The character of John Coffey both fascinates and terrifies me and I will never forget him.
Rather than reading this book in the six separate instalments it was originally released in, I picked up a full copy of the novel on my Kindle. The book was still split into the normal sections which made the reading go so quickly for a longer book, aside from the fantastic story, that is.
We start this novel by learning about Paul and his officers, the guards on The Green Mile in 1932. A group of men who are responsible for guarding those men who have been condemned to sit in the electric chair. Throughout the novel we learn to both love and loathe some of these men. Percy is a character that I will always categorically despise. It could be argued that all the men working on The Green Mile were ‘killers’, but they weren’t. Paul and his mean looked after their prisoners as if they were their own brothers, Delacroix and Coffey especially. Percy, however, is pure evil, right to the core and I just couldn’t stomach him. I was pleased, if that’s the right word, when he got his comeuppance.
When I reached the end of this book I sat in silence for about 30 minutes, quite unable to process how I felt. I was emotionally drained and felt like I had been on a real journey with these characters. King’s writing style truly made me fall in love with Paul and Coffey, their friendship, their mutual understanding of each other and the world around them. I feel desperately sad but also strangely at peace with how this novel ended.
What did I love most about the book?
Pretty much everything. The death penalty is a topic I have had many debates with my family about and people like John Coffey are the reason why. This novel gave me an insight behind the walls of an establishment where the use of the electric chair was no different to sitting on a normal chair, except that the wonderful characters made it completely unique. I loved the way this novel unwound. The build up in each of the novellas really helped me to understand each of the characters, both the guards and the prisoners. I can’t remember the last time I felt this emotional about a book. The depth of the characters in this novel is definitely my favourite thing. They feel so real to me and I feel so profoundly effected by their actions and words.
“Time takes it all, whether you want it to or not.”
“It’s strange how pain marks our faces, and makes us look like family.”
“We each owe a death, there are no exceptions, I know that, but sometimes, oh God, the Green Mile is so long”
I think it will be a long time before another book makes me feel the way that I feel about this one. Unbelievably, this is the first Stephen King novel I have read. I’ve seen many of the films based off his books and after reading this one I know I will be dusting the cobwebs off the ones I have on my TBR and getting into them soon. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone.