Gerald’s Game by Stephen King

by Kristopher Cook
Time to Read: 3 minutes

I’m still new to this Stephen King guy everyone keeps banging on about. I hope he’s good?

Before reading Gerald’s Game, I’ve only read King’s Carrie, although I have seen a lot of films based on his work. This means I have the unique pleasure of reading his work for the first time, for many times to come.

In reading, I’m not sure there’s a better pleasure than finding, or in this case caving in, to a new authors work. Obviously, by new, I mean new to me.

Synopsis

The story centres on Jessie Burlingame, and her husband Gerald, both in their 40’s. Out in their holiday cabin retreat, Gerald decides he wants to push the boundaries of their sex life.

He coerces Jessie into being handcuffed to their bed so that he can have his way with her. Gerald becomes aggressive and starts to force himself on Jessie, which forces her to react by kicking him in the chest.

The swift kick to the chest causes Gerald to have a heart attack and fall off the bed, leaving Jessie helplessly attached to the headboard.

While desperately trying to find a way out, what seemed so simply quickly becomes an act of survival as the nights are haunted by varying degrees of danger.

Themes

Helplessness is the real horror of Gerald’s Game.

The sound of his skull meeting the hardwood floor made her shriek again. It sounded like some enormous egg being cracked against the lip of a stone bowl.

STephen King, Chapter 1

It’s in Jessie’s hallucinatory periods that Stephen King’s writing begins to shine. It allows for a surrealist approach to his horror, similar to the style made famous by Clive Barker.

Weird shadows across the walls, ghostly figures and vicious dogs, but what is real and what is make-believe collide in this haunting tale of endurance.

Gerald’s Game does raise the question of consent, especially between married couples. What can one day be a pleasure enjoyed by both, can quickly turn into an act of will and strength by another.

While stranded on her bed, Jessie contemplates the many reasons for Gerald’s behaviour. Was he having an affair? Was he unable to get it up without a heightened sense of excitement/domination? All plausible questions but unfortunately are never answered.

There is however a theme of solar eclipses throughout this book. When one sets in while Jessie is handcuffed to the bed, it brings her back to her younger days, when she was looked after by her father.

During one of these visions, she now believes that at the age of twelve she was sexually abused by her father, during a solar eclipse. In part these stories are told through various characters’ voices within Jessie’s head; Old school friends, her ex-therapist and ‘The goodwife’ (a pure version of herself).

At times the voices were interesting and dynamic, offering much-needed action in an otherwise stale scenario. However, at times they did drag on, much like a lot of this book. It’s not necessarily bad, just a little bland.

Closing Thoughts

Gerald’s Game is a thoroughly enjoyable journey. Sure there are parts of the book that drag on a little, and at times seem ‘padded’, but it doesn’t detract too much from the overall pleasure.

There are many, ‘oh, where do we go from here’ moments to keep you in suspense and unlike a lot of the Stephen King community, I found the ending to be pleasing.

It’s a recommendation from me. Slightly controversially, I found it better than Carrie (I know, get the pitchforks, and burn him).

On the other hand, the book may have benefitted more from being written as a short story, rather than a feature-length novel.

Have you read Gerald’s Game? Or recently watched the Netflix series? Leave your comments below to join the discussion.

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