[diary critique] [personal observations] [miniseries critique] [news & rumor]
[official rose red site] [official diary of ellen rimbauer site] [move along home]

Rose Red/
The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer

ABC TV/Hyperion

288 Pages


Book: 2001
Miniseries: 01-27-02 | 01-28-02 | 01-31-02

Red.  I might have known it would be red.

...some houses are born bad...

A Diary Critique

This is one of those Stephen King conundrums, something along the lines of his dual publication of Desperation and The Regulators, or the serialization of The Green Mile or The Plant. King has never been one to stay within the mainstream, publishing graphic novels or screenplays whenever the world of straight-on novels didn’t suit his fancy.

Now, we’ve been presented with The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer, a true oddity even in the world of King literature. What makes it unique? We have no idea who wrote it. Could this be a Richard Bachman-style pseudonymous work, published under the “edited by Joyce Reardon” disclaimer? Could King have hired out a ghostwriter to use jumping-off points in his screenplay to construct a full “history” of Rose Red, so as to lend the miniseries verisimilitude? (My personal theory: this book reads quite a lot like Patrick McGrath’s Asylum, and since King wrote a screenplay based on that book, perhaps McGrath wrote a book based on King’s screenplay. Hey, weirder things have happened.)

Regardless, the connection between the book and the miniseries is pretty neat, no matter who wrote it. The utilization of multiple media is nothing new (the makers of The Blair Witch Project performed the feat quite well a few years back by marketing the film as a real documentary, and cross-marketing it with the website, which also gave no indication that it was all made up. In fact, the Rose Red people have also decided to go the website route, creating a splash page for a faux university and publishing “Joyce Reardon’s” notes, as well as “missing chapters” from Ellen Rimbaur’s diary.) But still, the Diary is somewhat unique, not discussing the events of the miniseries at all. Instead, it tells the history of the house, as seen through the eyes of the woman who became its ruler. Most interesting is when the characters in the miniseries discuss the diary; sometimes you’ll catch yourself saying, “Yes, that’s just what Ellen thought, too.” Give yourself into King’s insanity and you’ll be happier for it.

How is the book itself? Quite good. Through the device of the diary format, we’re able to watch Ellen’s viewpoint change subtly over the years (during the reading, I was constantly reminded of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, at least in terms of structure.) It’s fascinating to watch her transform from meek young lady to society woman to rage-driven maniac. Also interesting is watching the house – Rose Red herself – grow with Ellen, becoming more and more violent as the years roll past. One wonders, at times, whether the house was “born bad” – a phrase used throughout the miniseries – or whether the presence of Ellen herself is to blame for Rose Red’s dangerous history. (King has explored ambiguous parasitic evil of this type before, most notably in Christine.)

What’s maybe not so good is the Gerald’s Game-like insistence that all men are bad. Throughout the book, the only trustworthy characters are women, and are generally the only characters who elicit sympathy. There’s some concern over a homosexual man’s suicide (in one of the neater points in the miniseries, the characters discuss this event, and get significant parts of it wrong; no matter how much you know about the past, you can’t know everything), but in general, all men are evil, corrupt, violent, or all three. One could explain this away in two ways: 1, given the time period it takes place, and given the people Ellen surrounds herself with, all men in her life could be bad; 2, this being Ellen’s viewpoint, it’s entirely possible that she could be clouding the facts with her own perceptions. Still, it’s a little disheartening to travel down this type of road again, after the headway made in books like Dolores Claiborne and Rose Madder.

Taken as a whole, though, The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer is entertaining. It treads no new ground plot-wise (The Shining is very much in evidence here, and King – or whoever the author is – borrows greatly from Rebecca), but the diary format is well-utilized and Ellen’s singular voice is quite engaging. Even without the miniseries (which might be seen as sort of a sequel to this book), The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer is a worthy addition to your King collection.

The Facts

  • (Jan 18) The FULL PRESS RELEASE of the Rose Red auction!




    Rare Items Signed by Stephen King to be Offered for Charity

    Include Wardrobe Created for His "Rose Red" Cameo Appearance

    North Hollywood, Calif., January 18, 2002 - ABC Auctions (www.abcauctions.com) presented by eBay, is offering Stephen King fans a very rare opportunity to bid on actual wardrobe pieces and props, including some signed by the world-renowned author. Beginning January 24, 2002, horror fans can enjoy the opportunity to bid on 100 "Stephen King's Rose Red" items at ABC Auctions, all leading up to ABC's premiere movie event, airing January 27, 28 and 31 at 9 p.m. /8 p.m. Central.

    Top items being offered from January 24 through 31 include: § Script Signed by Stephen King - Copy of the shooting script autographed on its cover by author, Stephen King. § "Ellen Rimbauer" Fan -- Hand-painted fan opening to reveal a blooming bright, red rose. It was created as a character prop for lady-of-the-house Ellen Rimbauer (portrayed by Julia Campbell). § "Deanna" Aged Black Gown -- Floor-length black gown distressed to be the "aged" version of an identical costume; with crisscrossing neckline, rose appliqué, rhinestone-studded sleeves and sheer, full-length sleeveless sheath. The gown is an authentic costume created for the supporting character Deanna Petrie (portrayed by Yvonne Scio). § "Ellen" Aged Dress -- Full-length beaded ivory dress distressed to represent the "aged" version of an identical costume; with rose appliqué, petticoat and beaded choker. The dress is an authentic period costume created for the character Ellen Rimbauer (portrayed by Julia Campbell). Top items to be offered between January 31 and February 7 include: § Signed Stephen King Costume - White cotton golf shirt that is an authentic costume piece created for the author's cameo appearance as a pizza deliveryman in "Rose Red." The shirt is autographed by Stephen King. § Signed Crew Jacket -- Stephen King autographed golf jacket created for the crew of the ABC miniseries. § Fireplace Tool Set - Custom-made, wrought iron fireplace tools including a poker with rose-insignia topper, shovel, broom, log tongs and stand. § Dollhouse -- Elaborately detailed dollhouse that is a scale model of the haunted mansion serving as the namesake and principal setting of the ABC miniseries "Stephen King's Rose Red." The dollhouse is featured prominently in one of the movie's pivotal sequences. Proceeds from the items signed by Stephen King will benefit The Wave Dancer Foundation, an organization that fosters the welfare, healing and recovery of disabled professionals. For a spooky sneak preview of "Stephen King's Rose Red," you can go to www.abc.com, keyword Rose Red, and download the movie's three-dimensional, animated email trailer.

    ABC Presents "Stephen King's Rose Red" "Stephen King's Rose Red" was created directly for television by best-selling author and unparalleled master of horror Stephen King. It is the chilling tale of Dr. Joyce Reardon (Nancy Travis), an obsessed psychology professor who commissions a team of psychics and a gifted 15-year-old autistic girl, Annie Wheaton (Kimberly J. Brown), to literally wake up a supposedly dormant haunted mansion, Rose Red, built in 1907 by Seattle oil magnate John P. Rimbauer. Their efforts unleash myriad spirits and uncover horrifying secrets of the generations who have lived and died there. "Rose Red" is the first script that Stephen King worked on after the devastating car accident that nearly ended his life. As King worked on the script, he saw an opportunity to craft it into a miniseries, allowing him to explore in greater depth the story of the mysterious house, its former inhabitants and the disparate group assembled to investigate the house's powers. The result is a three-part, six-hour miniseries brought to you by the same team that made the popular "Stephen King's Storm of the Century" two years ago.