‘Carrie’ by Stephen King

16-year-old Carrie White is not like other girls. Her homemade, old-fashioned clothes are odd and unflattering, her acne-ridden face is dissociated and dismal, and no wonder: at school, she is the butt of every joke, and at home, she must contend with her abusive, tyrannical, religiously fanatical ‘Momma’. But when Carrie gets her first period, albeit in cruel, embarrassing, and very public circumstances, everything begins to change…

Although it’s been on my TBR for some years now, all I knew about Carrie was that it featured a teenage girl with latent telekinetic abilities that manifested when she was on her period. (None of that is a spoiler, by the way; this is all information you get in the book’s first few pages.) The whole conceit felt so female to me, that I was interested to see how Stephen King would handle it (it might be worth noting that the first of his works I have read). There were moments when King’s maleness bleed uncomfortably into his narration (the entirely unnecessary references to the size of gym teacher Miss Desjardin’s breasts, for example) but for the most part I think he provides a fine insight into the female teenage psyche. That is not to say that the novel seeks to investigate the inner psychological workings of its characters, far from it: rather, it possesses a fable-like, ‘universal’ quality, which is emphasised by King’s mode of narration – a mix of traditional third-person omniscient, and extracts from fictional court transcripts, newspaper reports, and academic studies of Carrie’s story. This narrative technique also means that the plot jumps between the past and present tense, lending it an uncomfortable sense of inevitability. The novel struck me as a sort of demented reimagining of Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s classic Matilda; a graphically violent Cinderella story gone horribly wrong. If you’re a fan of the gothic or of horror, you should certainly give it a try.


Stephen King

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