Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.
It’s King, you’d recognise his style anywhere and being a fan, I was immediately excited to read it. It’s a coming of age story centred around a murder of years ago and consequently is quite a different type of story from his usual but retains his trademark voice.
Set, as this is, in an amusement park I found myself waiting for the sinister to begin and of course you do get some of that but more than that you get a wonderfully rounded story about life and the living thereof.
The author has that knack of making you care about his characters and their actions, which in this book is definitely the main strength of his narrative. It’s the universal feeling that we all have about our own personal growth that is examined here and the seizing of those moments that change your life but also looking on the missed opportunities, with acceptance as well.
After the initial introduction he drags you quickly into a community, time and mood that becomes a place where you would like to be, to immerse yourself in the experience. In short you get that warm feeling of reminisces that aren’t your own but wish they were. To a certain extent this overshadow the crime aspect of the book.
The core of the plot revolves around the melancholy pungency of life..that bittersweet experience. It’s the heady feeling of sentimentality to something that a fair few readers have never experienced that makes King’s writing so good. For the reader to be put in such an environment and to become engrossed on it is impressive for such a short book.
It’s all a bit of a sensitive narrative, with every small experience and detail brought to the fore, complete with laid back pacing which mirrors those long summer holiday months of youth before the grind of adulthood begins and all those existentialist thoughts truly pounce.
…the powers that be have a way of outlawing many beautiful things made by ordinary people.
A word on King’s characters. As ever he makes them believable, their idiosyncrasies, their beliefs all are plausible and complex. In a sense all the main characters come of age in various ways and with that comes the sense that we are all, whatever our life experience, still learning. Perhaps I read way too much into the story as a whole but it is a good book and a nice short read and well worth a look.
It’s not really that crimey, which is probably a bit of a disappointment to those looking explicitly for that sort of thing but for me, the brooding nature of that aspect, although it was great to have in the background would not have been a factor had it not come to the conclusion that it did (which is to give nothing away at all). In short the crime is a bit of a bonus and this is a good solid story with more emotional depth than your average crime book.