Reading Stephen King Chronologically: Carrie

 I heard of the chronological Stephen King read over on TikTok and thought it would be a great way to reread some of King's work. As well as discovering those I haven’t read and seeing if there’s a progression in his writing over time. There are a lot of books to read and some of them are chunky boys so this is going to take some time. I am excited to take you on this journey with me. As a mood reader I always have several books on the go, so I will still be reading other books along the way too. 

The first book Stephen King officially published was actually ‘Carrie’ in 1974. King had started writing ‘Carrie’ as a story and actually gave up on it. Thinking it wasn’t going to be successful as its intended purpose was a short story for a men’s magazine. His wife found it and read it. She loved it and pushed him to continue writing and that she would help him with the female perspective. ‘Carrie’ then became a novel rather than a short story. If that isn’t a lesson on never giving up on your art then I don’t know what is! 

Like most people I read ‘Carrie’ when I was a teenager and enjoyed it. I was looking forward to a chance to reread the book in my adulthood. I always worry if I reread a book I’m going to get bored because ultimately you know what is going to happen. However I found a second time round I loved the book so much more than when I read it as a teenager. I feel like I felt a lot more empathy for the characters, not just Carrie herself but also Sue and Tommy. 

To summarise the book for anyone who hasn’t read it or seen the movies. Carrie is a young girl who is bullied at school for being strange. She comes from a highly religious household and doesn’t fit in with her peers. She discovers she has telekinesis and this helps her get her revenge. The rest of this review is going to contain spoilers so if you have managed to avoid ‘Carrie’ until now I urge you to go read it. 

‘Carrie’ was quickly picked up to become a movie which helped bring Stephen King into the spotlight and imprinted him as a household name. The film stays pretty true to the book in most ways other than the fact that in the book Carrie is not as pretty. In the book she’s chubby and covered in acne, she’s not very fashionable and comes across as not being desirable at all to her peers. The film wanted to make Carrie more palatable for an audience so made her slim and blonde. That being said both films are pretty amazing and true to the book.

One of the things I love about the way King writes is he often uses the multi perspective and this is true of ‘Carrie’. The book is told in a series of retellings, interviews, and also carries point of view. So we get to hear the events from different perspectives. Some scholars have said this is to help give the idea that nobody can really believe or piece together what really happened on prom night. 

My heart breaks for Carrie because the running theme of ostracism is so strong and you really feel how isolated and alone she feels. Even at home her mother isolates her as an extreme Christian who thinks most things anyone does is a sin and is constantly locking Carrie into a cupboard to pray for just being a curious child or speaking out. The saddest thing in the whole book for me is the toxic relationship between Carrie and her mother. She is abusive yet Carrie loves her and takes her word as gospel. Saddest of all her Mother doesn’t speak to her daughter about the realities of life like periods. She really believes these to be sinful and evil which created the most infamous ‘Carrie’ scene.

It’s not only Carrie that gets ostracised when Sue takes a stand and tells the truth taking the punishment for her wrong doings her friends also casts her aside. When Sue makes the choice to miss the prom in favour of Carrie going she experiences a sense of isolation herself. I feel bad for Tommy and Sue in their misguided attempt to help fix a problem way too late. 

We can’t talk about ‘Carrie’ without talking about that bathroom scene! To think that Carrie honestly thought in the moment she got her period that she was truly dying is shocking and heartbreaking. Then she was picked on in a very traumatic way. This is just one scene that helps fill Carrie with rage and it’s after this we see how differently two girls act. One showing no remorse and the other although badly trying to make up for her wrongdoings. 

The best thing about ‘Carrie’ has to be the vengeance . The town has been against Carrie her whole life and suddenly she realised she has this power to move and control things with her mind. Prom night is around half the book so we get all the suspense of waiting for the bad to come as well as a detailed account of what actually happens not just to the high school but the entire town. I love that there is so much time in the book dedicated to Carrie's vengeance rather than a build up and a small reveal.

We get to feel the full strength of her rage and anger but also the town's anguish and fear. This style of power has been replicated in so much media since ‘Carrie’. A strong start for a first read from King. I am excited to see how his storytelling telling develops throughout his novels and time. Next up is ‘Salem’s Lot’.

Do you have a favourite Stephen King book or short story? 


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