Carrie - Stephen King (book review)
year - 1974
Genre - Horror, gothic.
Carrie is the first published novel by acclaimed writer Stephen King, even as a debut it put King into the mainstream as a writer who was capable of becoming huge within the mainstream horror market (which is exactly what he did).
Carrie centres on a ridiculed teenage girl in her final year of highschool, mocked for her clothing, appearance, religious background and later her lack of knowledge regarding the female menstrual cycle, the latter half of the novel details her revenge on those who wronged her.
King states in the novels introduction that his inspiration stemmed from two girls he knew of from highschool, one bullied for her unfashionable clothing, the other for her religious beliefs. Both girls sadly committed suicide, King stating "both girls - fortunately or unfortunately - did not have the wild talent of Carrie White". King described the two girls as "ghosts" who "kept coming back to me" urging him to combine them in one of his novels. This background to the story gives it a raw and emotional setting which is clear in the writing, not only was King writing this because his family needed money but also as an homage to the two girls who were the victims of bullying within the American highschool system.
Carrie is written in a unique narrative style that swaps between the events of 1979 from the perspective of several characters, most prominently Carrie White herself then to magazine articles, autobiographies and police reports among other things to discuss and elaborate on the strange and tragic case of Carrie White, leading to the infamous "Prom night". At times the magazine articles regarding telekinetic powers can be a little slow but its a small gripe considering the rest of the novel and its unique narrative style are immersive and thrilling, being a literal page turner.
King creates many of his traditional conventions within this novel, the most obvious being taking place in Maine as well as taking jabs at religion/extremism. King also seems to borrow from various traditional gothic tropes such as religious overtones regarding good/evil, the female character in distress but also empowering her with powerful inhuman strengths (something later gothic writings would do) and the supernatural abilities in general. I think Carrie could be interpreted as a gothic feminist novel (similar to that of "The Bloody chamber collection" by Angela Carter), as it shows the patriarchal system in American culture in which a girl can be bullied relentlessly purely for the way she looks as well the many references to blood being a possible metaphor for periods, which in a sexist society is seen as dirty and even something to be ashamed of, not as a natural process of female anatomy. Obviously that is just one interpretation that could very well be wrong, though this novel is definitely a gothic classic, that is undeniable.
Carrie is chilling but not necessarily scary, the novel acts very psychologically on what is right and wrong, for example there is a character who dies yet he was only doing good, it shows injustice, and clearly what happens to Carrie White is unjust and evil, yet was she correct in her actions? that is the sort of questions King leaves the reader asking themselves. Carrie shows the ruthless and cruel acts of people that can push others to a point of no return.
Not lacking in gore and violence, Carrie is an undeniable horror classic that shows the true power of the supernatural and the pain that bullying can cause, King truly started off his career strongly with Carrie as a memorable and thrilling debut that will leave readers feeling on the edge.
By D.A. Clarke