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Gerald's Game Paperback – February 16, 2016
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From Publishers Weekly
While this is one of the best-written stories King has ever published, it will offend many through sheer bad taste. Jessie and Gerald Burlingame have been married for 20 years. Kinky sex is Gerald's game; lately he has taken to handcuffing his wife to the bedposts. During one such session, via a series of bizarre circumstances, Jessie accidentally kills her husband, and for the next 28 hours she is trapped. King effectively uses this tragicomic conceit to take us deep into the mind of "Goodwife Burlingame."sic For the first third of the book he is at the top of his form, creating in Jessie one of his most intense character studies. Then, Jessie's ruminations lead her to remember a long-repressed episode of incest that is startling not because it becomes a central element of the plot, but because the details of the sexual relationship between father and daughter are salaciously--and lengthily--described. The gory stuff--how Jessie escapes her handcuffs, for example--is prime King, but this is subsumed in the book's general tastelessness. A lame wrap-up to what might have been a thrilling short story only further compromises the enjoyment readers might have found in this surprisingly exploitative work. 1.5 million first printing; $750,000 ad/promo; BOMC main selection.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
From Kirkus Reviews
King takes it over the top, way over the top, in an exquisitely horrifying frightfest about a woman forced to face her deepest fears--and then some. Jessie Burlingame, 39, is getting plenty tired of being handcuffed to the bed of her Maine summerhouse by her attorney- husband, Gerald, so that he can play his silly sex games. So when Gerald refuses to uncuff her, she kicks him in the family jewels, accidentally smashing them to kingdom come--and the terror begins. Each hand cuffed to a bedpost, the keys out of reach, Jessie howls for help--and is answered by a feral dog that proceeds to chow down on Gerald's face in lavishly described, muscle-shredding detail. As the long hours pass, cramps bite like iron jaws into Jessie's own flesh; but they're nothing compared to the thirst raging through her. Can she somehow reach the glass of water on the shelf above her head? It takes the most tightly controlled writing King's ever done to find out, but soon even the thirst pales beside the guilt- gargoyles that Jessie's mind begins to throw up, all pointing at the sun-eclipsed day so long ago when she became much more to Daddy than just his little girl. The minutes tick by, each an agony--and King's just warming up. Night falls: What's that shadow in the corner? The one with the smirking face of Death? And how can Jessie, growing into a heartbreakingly brave heroine, escape? She tugs and tugs at her wrists but can't slip them past the cuffs. Is there a hot, sticky lubricant at hand? He's not really going to describe that, is he? But, with a ferocious gleam in his eye, King does, out-splatterpunking everyone else on the planet in a tour de force that--even given some overindulgent psychologizing, awfully strong echoes of Cujo and Misery, and a long, peculiar anticlimax--is his most wrenching novel to date. This one is really scary. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
This book, which is an excellent one for many reasons, seemed to be King's first direct response to that criticism. In it, he proves once and for all that he can write a female lead character as compelling and believeable as any of his other characters, and can tell a fine yarn at the same time.
The book starts out in surprising territory for King: a sexual game being played by Gerald Burlingame, who has just handcuffed his wife Jessie to the bed. This is not the first time this game has been played -- it's an old routine at this point, one which Jessie never particularly liked and has now grown quite bored with, to the point of frustration. She tells her husband that she doesn't want to do it this time, but he presses on. In the ensuing struggle, he has a heart attack and dies, leaving her handcuffed to the bed, in the middle of nowhere.
That's when the story really starts. King's real strength in this story is not just in telling what happens to Jessie in her predicament, but King uses this device to tell the story of how she got there in the first place. What sort of woman is Jessie? What events led her to this place, this man, this scenario? In the course of the story, as Jessie struggles to free herself from her bonds, we also find out why she is there.
Contrary to what some other reviewers have said, I found this book to be a page-turner. It kept me up very late finishing it, and once I was finished, I quite literally did not want to turn out the light. This does not happen to me often; in fact, this is the only King book that has had this effect on me. The effect is largely due to a very effective description, about halfway through the book, of something Jessie sees, or thinks she sees, in the corner of the darkened room in which she is trapped. The scene was so powerfully described that it bothered me for the next week, and inspired me to make a drawing called "Made of Moonlight," which was an attempt to exorcise the scene from my imagination. Even re-reading it now, I find that part absolutely chilling. It's one of the high points in the book, and one of King's most frightening moments in any of his work.
Bear in mind, this is not a supernatural horror novel. Its only supernatural element is a slight tie-in with events in his other "eclipse" novel, "Dolores Claiborne." "Gerald's Game" is mainly a character study, with elements of horror interspersed to keep the reader engaged. The fear, however, comes from a place that is all too real and believeable, and it comes because King has crafted such a powerful story, and such a sympathetic lead character in Jessie Burlingame.
In the end, "Gerald's Game" is not one of King's easier stories to read. It deals with some real issues, and its terrors are only too plausible. Unlike "The Shining" or "Cujo," it's difficult to put this book down at the end and convince oneself that the same thing couldn't happen to you. It's not a book about the scary monster that comes from under the bed. No, in the final analysis "Gerald's Game" is about the monsters who sleep in the bed with you, cleverly disguised, and about those monsters who were there to shape your past.