Carrie White was no ordinary girl. Carrie White had a gift – the gift of telekinesis. And when, one horrifying and endless night, she exercised that terrible gift on the town that mocked and loathed her, the result was stunning and macabre.
When did I first read this? Late 1975, in one sitting; I remember it vividly 🙂
What age was I? An impressionable 13
How many times since then? Apparently this is only the third time that I have read Carrie, which seems astonishing to me as I feel I know the story so well, but there you go, stats don’t lie. Probably.
Thoughts about the book:
This was the first Stephen King book that I read and I was totally blown away by it in the way that is only possible when you are a young teenager. Unlike people coming to King for the first time today there was of course no back catalogue of work to dive into to feed the obsession, and although I read ‘Salem’s Lot later that year (and you can find out what I thought about re-reading that in this post) from then on it was all about having to wait for his new books to be published.
But why did Carrie resonate so much? It seems obvious to say that a teenage girl would find a lot to empathise with in the story of another teenage girl but I think that’s too easy; after all we had very little in common – Us vs UK, fundamentalist religion vs (relatively) free thinking, unpopular and downtrodden vs ordinary middle-of-the-roadness. And of course the small matter of my not having any telekinetic abilities whatsoever. Or at least none that have manifested themselves so far and at the age of 53 (and unless the menopause unleashes that sort of thing in the same way puberty does) it isn’t likely to happen now!
I think looking back it was the idea of raw power and what might be possible if you had an untapped ability and what could be done if you learned to control it. Of course the whole point of Carrie (and I don’t think I’m giving anything away here as it’s made pretty clear from the start of the book) is that although she learns to control it in part, the Unfortunate Incident at the Prom tips her over the edge and she lets it all out. Of course, there are Consequences of a devastating nature.
I also think this may very well have been the first novel I read that had this kind of structure, a mix of traditional third person story telling with newspaper reports and eye-witness testimony and book and letter extracts from after the fact. And I’m still a sucker for that sort of thing (I’m currently reading Vanessa and her Sister which is constructed from diary entries interspersed with letters and postcards and which I am thoroughly enjoying, although it is obviously a very different sort of thing).
It was an interesting experience reading Carrie again. For a start I had forgotten how short it is, less than 250 pages so really more like a novella. It’s much clearer to me now that the real villain is Billy, and that Chris may not have gone through with it in the end if he hadn’t forced her. And I feel sorry for Carrie herself but more so for Sue, who has to deal with surviving the whole thing.
So, although it’s clearly an early work and his later stuff became much more polished I still find this a very effective and affecting story and was pleased that it hadn’t lost its punch
Though really, what is it with King and the name Christine for baddies? First Chris Hargerson here, then the eponymous killer car, it’s just not right….
Additional thoughts about the film versions:
I also remember going to the cinema with my then boyfriend to see Brian de Palma’s version of Carrie, nice and bloody and with a couple of great performances from Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, and of course that unexpected ending which made me jump and scream out loud. I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch the recent re-make yet.
If you want to read more about the films then I really recommend Anne Billson’s thoughts on the matter on her blog, an excellent assessment I think.
I re-read Carrie because I’ve been looking for an excuse to do so and that came in the form of the King’s March challenge.