Friday, March 03, 2006

Gerald's Game - Stephen King

The story is one of King's most compelling: Jessie Burlingame's husband Gerald enjoys kinky sex games with his wife. Actually, he probably depends on them. When the Burlingames try out their handcuff game down in the house by deserted Kashwakamack Lake, Jessie decides she's had enough. She experiences a flash from her childhood (another game she didn't like), and kicks out, rebelling both against her husband and her past. Gerald suffers a fatal heart attack, falling to the floor. And Jessie is still handcuffed to the bed.
This is really interesting stuff, the setup for a nerve-jangling novel. And on some points, King delivers. Jessie's battle to get a water glass and actually drink from it is an unlikely, yet stunning, source of excitement and tension. Women she has known in her life become her "voices," sides of her personality she assigns personification. The interplay of the voices is great, too, if a little one- dimensional. And there are the flashbacks: Jessie, you see, once spent another afternoon on a deserted lake with a man. But she was ten, and the man was her father, and he played a game with her then, too. This memory is the core of the novel, and it's a disturbing and frightening core. It actually might go a long way to explaining why Jessie let herself be used by Gerald. The most interesting thing about this book is that the story takes place in one room. King is a master of intensity, to be able to write an entire story that exists only in the one room and still masterfully keep you wondering what will come next is sheer brilliance. This book is not one of his scariest books, but it is in my top ten best books to read. Read this book even if you don’t like King’s books, because this is far from his usual, most of the action takes place in Jessie’s mind as she descends into madness.

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