Book Reviews

Book Review: Carrie by Stephen King

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CarrieCarrie is the first novel written by Stephen King and was first published in 1974. It is a worldwide bestseller and has since been turned into a film. I wanted to read at least one book by Stephen King and what better place to start than his first novel?

The Plot

Carrie is a social outcast in high school but what her classmates don’t know is that she has telekinetic powers. When Carrie is invited to the Spring Ball by Tommy Ross she feels she could finally be accepted by her peers. A cruel practical joke has unforeseen repercussions as Carrie uses her gift to inflict terror on everyone in what turns into a night of horrific devastation.

My review – contains spoilers!

Carrie is like a nightmare which plays out in slow-motion – you know something terrible is going to happen, but you can’t do anything to stop it. It’s both gripping and suspenseful, especially at Prom Night. What I like about this book is the inclusion of a variety of ‘secondary sources’ which made it seem like a true story. It is reminiscent of the technique Bram Stoker used in Dracula. I was unaware of telekinesis which is defined in this novel as ‘the ability to move objects or to cause changes in objects by force of the mind’. Stephen King illuminates the TK phenomenon in an imaginative way through Carrie’s telekinetic powers which are at the heart of this novel.

I felt sorry for Carrie who is taunted by her classmates to an extreme degree. Stephen King has an uncanny ability to tap into the mind-set of teenage girls and knows how cruel they can be. Carrie also has to contend with troubles at home – her mother, Margaret, is clearly unhinged. Perhaps the most disturbing part of this novel is when Margaret sends Carrie to the closet for hours on end. It’s a cruel and unusual punishment, and I’m surprised Carrie didn’t call social services. Ironically, Carrie’s latent talent emerges as a result of stress and she gets her own back. The practical joke at Prom Night acts as a catalyst for Carrie’s powers – from then on, she is set on a path of destruction.

Although Carrie is a horror novel, one theme I noticed is blind love. Tommy loves Sue and so he agrees to ask Carrie to the Spring Ball. Billy has a blind love for Chris – ‘He would have done murder for her, and more’. This is why Billy goes to the farm with the pails. Margaret White has a blind devotion to her faith which distorts her vision. Perhaps Stephen King is suggesting that we should be wary of blind love and think for ourselves. I think this novel also hints that you should trust your instincts. Carrie starts to get a bad feeling at the Spring Ball when they are voting for the King and Queen. She asks Tommy not to vote for them, but he does it anyway.

Sue Snell is a complex character. She asks Tommy to take Carrie to the Spring Ball because she wants to feel better about herself. It would have made more sense if Sue apologised to Carrie and became friends with her instead. The tragedy that ensues is indirectly Sue’s fault. If Carrie had not gone to Prom Night, she would not have been humiliated on such a grand scale by Chris and her minions. Sue defends her actions in her own book, though, and says the only person she is sorry for is Carrie.

Final thoughts

Carrie is a well written first novel by Stephen King. It is an engaging and heart-rending read. You can’t help but sympathise with Carrie’s plight. There are some thrilling, gory moments in this book. I don’t usually read horror novels but I enjoyed this book and read it in five days.

My rating: ★★★★☆

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