TITLE: GERALD’S GAME
AUTHOR: STEPHEN KING
PUBLISHER: NEW ENGLISH LIBRARY
GENRE: SUSPENSE FICTION
COVER TYPE: HARD BACK
BLURB FROM THE COVER
A game. A husband and wife game.
But this time Jessie didn’t want to play. Lying there, spreadeagled and naked while he’d loomed and drooled over her, she’d felt angry and humiliated.
So she’d kicked out hard. Aimed to hit him where it hurt.
And now he was dead – a coronary on the floor.
Leaving Jessie alone and helpless in a lakeside holiday cabin. Miles from anywhere. No-one to hear her screams.
Alone. Except for the voices in her head that had begun to chatter and argue and sneer.
THE OPENING LINE
Jessie could hear the back door banging lightly, randomly in the October breeze blowing around the house.
I’m very fond of Gerald’s Game. It’s not one of my favourite King novels but its high on my list of ‘books I think are pretty decent’. I see it as in between novel. I can’t quite bring myself to love it but I don’t hate it either. It has some great stuff and not so great stuff.
I think King’s concept for the novel is great. Very original. For more than 90% of the novel the main character is handcuffed to a bed while her husband lies dead on the floor. The main focus of the narrative is how the hell she’s going to get out of this mess. I felt Jessie’s experience was very real to the extent it made me squirm. I kept thinking if I’d been in her position I would have thrashed about on the bed weeping until I starved to death or died of fright. The whole novel had a very tense, claustrophobic atmosphere which created great suspense.
King’s writing is, as usual, great. I couldn’t find any flaws with the prose. I liked the way Gerald’s Game was narrated. Although the point of view is the third person we’re shown everything from Jessie’s viewpoint which is very intimate, almost like a first person narrator. I felt extremely close to Jessie because of this. His descriptions made the whole reading experience very vivid.
Gerald’s Game deals with some pretty dark subject matter.
Jessie was sexually abused by her father when she was ten and alone with him during an eclipse. She never told anyone and King implies this event has affected her significantly as an adult. Her denial caused her to flee from two women who could have helped her deal with it. I found the flashbacks of her father abusing her pretty disturbing. I was also chilled by the implication Jessie’s mother may have suspected her father’s intentions and did nothing. At one point her mother says he treats Jessie like his girlfriend instead of his daughter. Any mother who thinks that and appears to hate her daughter should have her children taken into care and be bitch slapped into the next decade.
I also found Jessie and Gerald’s marriage pretty disturbing. He came across as a male chauvinist prick that deserved to die and have bits chewed off him by a stray dog.
The scene that disturbed me most of all was the way Jessie escaped from the handcuffs. She almost peeled the skin off her hand and used her blood as a lubricant. I felt quite squeamish and it takes a lot to make me feel repulsed. I’d starve and slowly waste away before I use my own blood as a lubricant.
I’m not very enamoured with the title of the novel. I think Gerald’s Game is quite lacklustre. Yes it fits and makes sense but that doesn’t necessarily make it a great title. King could do much better.
Throughout most of Gerald’s Game, Jessie hears numerous voices in her head. One voice is a puritan version of herself, another is her younger self after she was sexually abused, one voice belongs to a college friend she almost told about the abuse and the other voice belongs to a therapist she went to years ago. These voices start to take over Jessie as she struggles to think of a way to escape and has flashbacks of being abused. I didn’t think this worked very well. I’m not sure what King hoped to achieve with this. Is he trying to suggest Jessie has multiple personality disorder? I didn’t see the need for the voices to be different people. It would have worked better if they were just Jessie’s own internal thoughts. I just think was a bit weird. I also found it irritating that each ‘voice’ was written in italics. This jarred and wasn’t necessary.
Twice during Jessie’s captivity she sees what she believes to be a weird, creepy man standing in the corner of the bedroom. He has a trunk with him and shows her what appears to be jewellery and trinkets. Jessie thinks she’s hallucinated him or he’s her father’s spirit. It’s revealed that he’s a necrophile wanted by the police for desecrating graves. I didn’t see the point in adding this part to the novel. This was superfluous.
There’s a link between Gerald’s Game and Dolores Claiborne. In Dolores Claiborne during an eclipse, Dolores murders Joe. In Gerald’s Game during the same eclipse, Jessie is sexually abused by her father. Both characters get a ‘vision’ of the other. This didn’t work and came across as gimmicky.
I enjoyed Gerald’s Game. I just think it has weak areas that spoil the overall enjoyment of the novel. It’s worth a read though. It’s a good novel but not quite as great as it could be.