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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 November 2004
Among Stephen King's large body of work, there are admittedly a few duds, but in far greater number are the really super pieces of work, the great books that will stand the test of time and, eventually, he will be deservedly remembered for. There are at least 5 which could vie for the "his best book" accolade, and Gerald's Game is one of them. It is, in a word, superb.
It is one of King's most eccentric books, in terms of the rest of his work. There is no horror here at all, at least not of the ghouly kind. Instead, we sink down into the mind of one character, trapped in a cabin for four hundred pages, and see the internal horrors that lie within it. It is a psychological novel more than anything, which would most probably appeal to fans of authors like Ruth Rendell or Ian McEwan - fans of writers whose normal subject is the human mind, its messinesses and ways of preservation, its internal conflicts and idiosyncrasies. Gerald's Game is a excellent book because King is able to keep us in the company of one single character, alone in a room, tied to a bed, for almost the entire book, and never do we experience a moment of boredom. It would be difficult to overstate the level of achievement this illustrates.
Obviously, not everyone's going to like it. There are people who will find this book boring, and will want more action, more obvious thrills and excitements. If you like subtlety, though, more focused and mental thrills which spring from a more psychological well, this book is for you. It's a marvellous exercise in form and structure, and an absolutely gripping psychological novel. I think King's best work is normally produced when he moves away from overt horror, and this is an example of that. It's a sharp, deeply engaging and gripping book that is no less terrifying than if there were vampires or ghosts involved. Read it. It's not only unique among King's work, but in almost everything else I've read as well.
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on 13 October 2012
It's Stephen King again! Or is it? When Dolores Claiborne was first published, {and a few years later, when another King novel, ROSE MADDER appeared} speculation was rife that in fact the book had not been scribed by the author of THE STAND and IT, but actually by Tabitha King, his author wife. Hmmm. Let's see...

DOLORES CLAIBORNE is the story of the eponymous woman from Little Tall Island, Maine, and is told [almost] entirely in the first person, by Dolores herself. She is telling the story of her life to the police chief after the mysterious death of her elderly and eccentric employer, Vera Donovan; a death where foul play is involved and Dolores is the chief suspect. Talk on the island has been rife about Delores; several years ago her husband also died in mysterious circumstances, and there have been malicious rumours and whispers about her ever since. But now is the time for Dolores to tell her story; of her married life with her alcoholic abusive husband, and how he began to sexually molest their young daughter, and of what happened on the night he died. Delores' tale is also the story of her employer, Vera Donovan, and Dolores' back-breaking filthy and degrading years working for this stark, wanton and perhaps a little crazy old woman, and also of the events leading up to her death. Throughout the novel, also, Delores often goes off track a little, and her little diversions and asides are equally as entertaining as the main plot.

I think that the main reason that critics and commentators were quick to suggest that King's wife had written DELORES CLAIBORNE are quite clear; the voice of Delores, a mildly elderly woman, is clear and vibrant and very individual, and her thoughts and feelings captured very well. The theme of the novel is very feminist and deals with touchy issues like murder and child abuse. Clearly, the critics opined, someone like Stephen King, writer of cheap horror stories about demon dogs and killer cars could never have written this highly literate and very feminine story. Naah, it must have been his wife, and they tagged Stephen's name on it so it would fly off the shelves. Or perhaps, and more realistically, these critics had never actually read much of King's back catalogue, and hadn't realised that despite his choice of horror subjects, he is a very adept and stylistic writer, capable of works [previous to DELORES] like CUJO, DIFFERENT SEASONS and "The Reach". You might have thought critics would enjoy this novel more too, because as well as being highly readable, tense and exciting, and being full of Kings acclaimed style and substance, DELORES CLAIBORNE contains nothing of traditional horror, but much of the horror that man makes; here, also, is only the tiniest smidgeon of the supernatural, a vision of shared crisis at the height of an eclipse.

In conclusion, this compact not-overlong novel is an entertaining, sometimes hard-hitting read, and in Delores Claiborne, King has created another very real flesh-and-blood character. The book is perhaps not a favourite of lifelong King fans who might prefer the monsters and splatter, but for fans of good writing it is a winner. I believe that in fifty or a hundred years time, DOLORES CLAIBORNE will be still being read, and will be seen as a classic regional novel, written by "that pulpy horror" writer Stephen King, and not his wife.
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on 2 October 1999
As a King fan of too many years, I have no qualms in saying this is my favourite King book so far. It feels like a long, short-story if you get me. It has more of the feeling of the excellent 'The Body' than of 'The Stand' where the main tale is all, and there are no sub-plots.
It is told in an unusual way that is at first hard to get into. But once you have, you can really feel the character of Delores as the story develops. Her pain and suffering are your pain and suffering. You want her to come out of this well. And does she? Well, read it. You won't be disappointed.
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on 16 May 2008
Rose Madder is an excellent read, I can't recommend it enough. It starts off rather slow, but Rose's journey from Buffalo to Chicago (for some reason the names of the cities are never mentioned but it is wasy to work out with a map and city references etc.) and how she copes in her new life are fascinating. Then, in the second half of the book, the husband she was fleeing from tracks her down and kills anyone who gets in his way. In creating Norman Daniels I think King has created one of his mightiest monsters - far scarier than the vampire in Salem's Lot, the cop in Desperation or even Randall Flagg.
The descriptions of Norman's killing spree in Chicago do not make for easy reading, and is some of the most grizzly and disturbing stuff I have ever read by King. The only odd thing is the supernatural element to this book, it is totally unexpected (and initially unwelcome) but doesn't take up too many pages. Rose Madder would make an awesome and terrifying film, with or without the supernatural stuff, and I found I cared for what happened to Rose much, much more than I cared about Jessie in Gerald's Game or Dolores Claiborne, as her development is gradual and enormous.
One of King's better works from the 1990's.
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on 14 January 2009
Writing from the point of view of a small girl is not an easy task for a middle aged man to achieve, but this is exactly what Stephen King tries to do in `The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon'. To a large extent I think that he actually fails to capture her voice and instead imbues her with too much experience and intelligence. The story itself is a compelling one as the girl in question, Trisha, is lost in the vast expanse of woodlands on the American/Canadian borders. She tries to survive her ordeal by imagining her friends and family as well as the titular Tom Gordon, her favourite baseball star.

The book has a very US centric feel as the baseball aspect dictates - this may put a lot of people off, but in my opinion Tom Gordon could have been just about anyone and the point of the book is not about baseball, but about a young girl trying to concentrate on something to survive. Another element of the book that does not quite work is the supernatural. Trisha drifts in and out of consciousness throughout and hallucinates - or does she? It seems to me that King felt he needed to add `horror' elements to keep with his back catalogue when the tale of a small girl lost is scary enough. The fact is that the supernatural elements of the book are the weakest. Despite my misgivings I could not help but enjoy the book as Trisha was a nice character and the single survival narrative did grip. With some added elements this could have been a great book, as it is, the book is just passable.
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on 17 November 2015
Written in the first-person perspective, the narrative is framed around an interview given to the police by a 65-year-old woman by the name of Dolores Claiborne, who has been arrested on suspicion of the murder of a rich old lady called Vera Donovan, who she worked for as a housekeeper. Vera bequeathed Dolores a tidy sum of some 30 million dollars upon her death, which unsurprisingly made people suspect that she was killed for her money. Dolores has form for it after all, having bumped off her abusive husband Joe three decades earlier.

The lack of chapters didn't really bother me as it's such a short book, in comparison with a few of Stephen King's heftier tomes. I've read over a dozen of King's novels since I started working my way through his back catalogue two years ago, and I've enjoyed almost every one immensely. This really lived up to my high expectations.
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VINE VOICEon 14 April 2007
Jesse Burlinghame is a nice, respectable, middle-aged lady. Shame the games her husband plays aren't so nice. Because the thing that really, really gets Gerald off, is to handcuff his wife to the bed before they have intercourse (I'd use a cruder word, but the rude word filter won't let me). Jesse says she's bored with it. Gerald, well, he doesn't quite believe her; Jesse has to kick him quite hard to make her point, so hard in fact that before she knows it, he's dead on the floor of a massive coronary, and she's still handcuffed to the bed....

It always amazes me that the Stephen King novels that everyone else loves are the huge, character-heavy set pieces, The Stand or Pet Semetary, because the thing he does best is not the monster that's stalking the land, but the monster that might or might not be inside your head, the one that's just visible from the corner of your eye - or is it just a shadow?

There really ought not to be a novel's worth of material in this story. A middle aged woman secured to a bed will die if she doesn't get away, and you know it won't end with her dying, so she's going to get away, and really, if you think, you know how she's going to get away, it's just too damn' nasty to think about.

So for me, it's a mark of King's genius that he manages to make this 'nothing happened' stuff into a completely riveting story. This hangs so beautifully between fantasy and reality that it's hard to resist. At first glance then, the ending might seem to be the one jarring note - the hard knock of reality amongst all the uncertainty, where what Jessie thinks is a hallucination brought on by her captivity turns out to be very real. For me, actually, it seals the horror - what happened to the child-Jesse by the lake on the day the sun went out is mirrored by what happened to the adult-Jesse by the lake on the day it became night... All of our nightmares are real.
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on 27 March 2006
Jessie Burlingame has become ever more tired of her husband Gerald's kinky sex games, but when he suddenly dies during a session, leaving her handcuffed to a bed in a remote house, the game becomes deadly. And now Jessie finds herself caught like a spider in a web, unable to move, afraid of the monster that may lie right outside the house (or inside for that matter!). However, listening to the voices in her own head, she begins to find that not all of the monsters are "out there," some are right inside her own mind!
This is an intense book, a book about horror, but not knife-wielding killers. Instead this is a deep and intense look at the horrors that people inflict on others and on themselves. I found this to be a challenging book - hard to keep reading, but impossible to put down. It's not a happy book, but it is a fascinating and horrifying read, one that will keep you on the edge of your seat!
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on 9 April 2014
This is Stephen King but maybe not as we know him and as we imagine his books to me. He makes a little detour into the psychological genre here (but there is still of course a small supernatural element).

The story is told by Dolores, the main protagonist. Unusually so, there are no chapters or breaks, but the whole books reads like a monologue by Dolores. Dolores was a housekeeper for an elderly wealthy woman, Vera Donovan. She starts the story off by being interviewed by police and telling us that she did not murder Vera Donovan, even though her death seems to be somewhat similar to the death of Dolores' husband 30 years ago, both dying after a fall. Dolores says she did not kill Vera, however, she did murder her husband Joe 30 years ago. What follows this confession is the story of her life and how she came to murder Joe… An alcoholic, Joe beat up Dolores regularly and a tyrant. When Dolores fears that he abuses their young daughter, she can't take no more.

Dolores is a simple but energetic and witty woman, and that's how the writing is. It is indeed quite different from the usual King stories, however, any fan will recognise his unique writing style. Apart from Dolores, Joe and Vera there are not a lot of characters in this book, again something King does very well (Gerald's Game has only 2 characters I think throughout the whole book - maybe a few minor ones mentioned).This is a hard-hitting story of abuse, courage but also of wonderful friendship which Dolores found.

The unique style of this book (monologue) does get some getting used to, but you will be rewarded with a beautiful story.
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on 11 November 2004
This isn't King's best by a long way- its not in the same league as the Stand or Insomnia. But it is still worth the reading. It is fairly slow paced with the bare minimum of characters (for the most part, just one) and the action takes place within one room.
There are some stand- out areas; the 'degloving' pages made me nearly vomit in the bath and my three year old told me she would fetch a doctor. I must have looked quite bad!The 'man'in the corner is an unexpected turn and its creepiness is made tenfold by the twist near the end.
If you're hoping for the usual hair- raising King, you'll either be disappointed or pleasantly surprised. Just because it is different from his usual epics doesn't mean that it's not worth the time. I would have given it three stars but for the fact that it is the only book to make me nearly puke, ever. That in itself deserves a star!
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