Friday, 17 August 2012

Devouring Stephen King: Gerald's Game

"Nothing she had ever seen on Firing Line or read in the Reader's Digest had prepared her for what she had just done."

As far as I can remember, Gerald's Game is has the first sole female heroine of any of King's books since Carrie. I mean... OK, maybe Cujo a tiny bit, and Needful Things had a sort of joint man-and-lady hero thing going on, but on the whole, I think this is true. Which is, you know, pleasing to me because, yay ladies- King doesn't exactly forget to include the ladies, but they tend to be wives or mothers, one of which is true of our heroine, but she's also a bit of a change from the norm.

Except where she isn't. Ok, so Jessie is 'Gerald's wife' (and note that even the title is about him, not her) and she finds herself in a slightly sticky (ewww...) situation when Gerald has a heart attack in the middle of some kinky sex that sees her tied to the headboard of their bed in a cabin in the middle of the woods. On a weekday. So the rest of the book just basically happens in Jessie's head, which is interesting because she's ever-so-slightly schizophrenic, and the voices in her head make her face up to one basic thing in her life, the one thing that haunts her and holds her back and all those other bad things.

Sounds intriguing, right? Well, it is and it isn't, in that what 'the event' actually was is a thing that annoys me ever so much about Stephen King whenever he does things like this. Ok, so the deal with Jessie is that when she was 10 she was sexually molested (I hope this isn't a spoiler- I got it really really early on, but then I read A LOT of Virginia Andrews books when I was young, so...). Which in itself is not the issue, because it obviously fits well with the situation she's in (sexual vulnerability and everything) BUT OMG King does this all the time. I mean, not so much with the molestation, but with the 'if a woman has a problem, it has to do with her lady parts' thing and it annoys me ever so much.

Seriously- there's Carrie's powers evolving once she starts her period, Bobbi's crazy periods once she gets near the spaceship in The Tommyknockers, Frannie being all pregnant (and thus useless) in The Stand... The amount of times King has done this is actually quite staggering, and it bugs the crap out of me! Does he do this to his male characters? Do his male characters have issues because of their penises? Nope, they are just people, who get into weird situations with various creatures. But the girls? Their sexuality can lead them out of the sewers, and if weird shit's happening, they're probably menstruating. IT'S SO FRUSTRATING- I just want to shake him and go 'STOP DOING THAT TO THE WOMEN!' 

But. This is a long standing issue I have with him (and, to be fair, I don't massively have a problem with his women characters beyond this- often they're very well fleshed out, and definitely better than a lot of male writers would bother to do, so...) and I feel like it's unfair of me to take it out on this book, which was actually pretty good. It's really suspenseful (will Jessie be able to escape?) and gross (not elaborating on that one, but seriously... Gross) AND just when you think he's given in and gone for the supernatural element, BANG he does a swift u-turn, and bucks his own conventions. Well, one of them, anyway. Because of this, I'd like to conjecture that this would have actually been a Bachman book, if 'Bachman' hadn't been outed, but that's not massively important. UNLESS I'm the first person to have ever said that, and Stephen King would agree with me, and then I win everything. 

I realise that this 'review' is really just a big moan about Stephen King, but rest assured I still love him, I just don't love the reducing females to their female parts thing that he very often does. Gerald's Game is still a good read, and pretty tense and upsetting to boot. I bet you've been reading this and thinking of Misery (the masses: nope, not at all) but it's not anywhere near as good as Misery. But since that was AWESOME, this is still good. Give it a try.


  1. one of my favorites from King

  2. You know I thought this book was a lot like Cujo, actually, like the stuck-in-the-car scene, I mean.
    I actually never noticed the thing with his female characters, though I am bad at noticing such things. Now that you mention it, though...
    Great review!

  3. I remember being gripped by this book as a kid and barely catching my breath for the most part. It was long before I had any conception of literary depictions of gender roles, so it should make for an interesting re-read.

  4. Well, the protagonist in The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon was nine, so I'm trying to remember now if King still managed to work in the "lady parts" as reason for issues. She might have had a free pass because she was pre-pubescent. I've only read two book by King. The second one was Bag of Bones which I liked overall but it has a really graphic rape scene that is a crucial plot point. And I haven't read enough King to know if sexual violence reoccurs often but I hope not.

  5. How did I miss your Gerald's Game review?!

    I totally get your Stephen King/women issues but I really felt like he made up for his shitty wife or mother archetypes with this book (ok not really shitty, but you know, unimaginative). I agree with the molestation thing, but overall I thought he handled the story and her dealing with the molesting thing wayyyyy better than I was expecting him to.

    But how shitty is that last section of the novel. Seriously, it came so close to ruining what was fast becoming a top 5 fave.