Gerald's Game

This fairly recent novel was the book published before Dolores Claiborne, and the similarities and connections are fairly easy to spot. Many people have criticised both books as being among King's worst. Personally I disagree... I find they're just in a different style to his earlier works.

The plot of this book is relatively simple. Jessie and her husband Gerald decide to spend a long, steamy weekend in their cabin deep in the countryside... no-one for miles around. Gerald is into bondage, and until now, Jessie has played along, although it gives her no particular pleasure. As before, Gerald handcuffs the naked Jessie to the bed, and then starts enjoying himself.

This time, however, Jessie decides she has had enough, and tells Gerald so. Gerald totally ignores her, spurred on if anything by her protestations. Eventually, Jessie becomes so annoyed that she kicks Gerald in the chest. Unfortunately, Gerald then has a heart-attack, and dies, leaving Jessie still handcuffed. Most of the rest of the book is about how Jessie escapes, or rather what she thinks about while she's trying to escape.

Jessie has several internal "voices" which tell her what she ought to do - one of which she thinks of as the "Goodwife Burlingame", who is extremely cautious and pessimistic. The other major "voice" is that of one of her college friends, Ruth something (I can't remember the last name - it's a long time since I've read this one, folks), who is far more outlandish and buoyant.

One of Jessie's main trains of thought concerns her relationship with her father. During the viewing of an eclipse of the sun (the same one, we are to presume, as the one in Dolores Claiborne) her father became, well, rather friendly with her. She has always tried to block this event from her memory, but lying hundcuffed to a bed has a way of bringing these things back. Facing the memory turns out to be nearly as big a challenge as escaping from the bed.

She manages both, though, performing the latter by slitting her wrists with a sliver of glass and using her own blood as a lubricant. Cringe.

There is more, however - during the night when she is restrained, she sees a shadowy figure lurking in the corner of the room, wearing a necklace of bones. This, in the end, turns out to be none other than a wanted criminal, the vision of whom haunts Jessie for some time. I never thought this part of the plot fitted in particularly well, but that may just be me.

In general, a very varied book - some good psychological analysis, but not standard Stephen King stuff.

Jon Skeet

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