Joyland – Stephen King

51iwRssMi5LWhilst we are the subject of theme parks and such like as referenced in my last post, it seems like the perfect time to review this immersive gem.  It’s almost like I planned it…

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.

34 Replies to “Joyland – Stephen King”

  1. Might have to add this one to the list I’ll be taking to the bookstore post-work to prepare for a weekend indoors (this polar vortex thing is working my last nerve). Great review!


    1. I hear it is a bit chilly up your way…this one will warm you up and won’t take much time to read which is a great excuse to buy another four books…as if an excuse was needed.


  2. I have not read any of King’s books, although I do have one in my small library. Well, bookshelf. 11-22-63. I did have Eye of the Dragon many years ago, but I lent it to a friend. I made that mistake to another friend a couple of years later as well. Now the only people I lend my books to are my kids.

    This sounds like it could be interesting. I do like crime books, although it has been many a year since I read one. 1988 I think was the last one. It was a Dick Francis book.

    I need to vary my books mire so I may take a look-see


    1. it is about time you caught up on your crime genre then methinks and there are so many amazing books out there that finding something good will be easy. Yes more of everything this pleases me!

      Book lending is a dangerous business, I tend to keep them close these days…if I lend a book people are honoured that I let my babies out.

      I haven’t read 11-22-63, it doesn’t interest me so I will be on the lookout for it in the bargain bins for when I have read all his other stuff. The Eyes of the Dragon was a good old skool fairytale and worth a read if you come across it again. This is a good start to your King career, being that it is not to grim or overly long as some of them are.


      1. Well, I just per-chaysed the the book, so I will give it a whirl when it arrives. Lord of the Rings was the other book I leant out. For ten years I asked for it back. In the end I gave up and brought it again


        1. Yeah LotR is a bit of a keeper. Glad you have chosen to take a punt on this one. i hope you enjoy it more a Sunday roast.


    1. It has a bit of sinister in but deals more with life…in short it isn’t to grim and that’s always a pleasant surprise with King.


  3. You do have such a way…to tempt us with the greatest enticements…

    “The core of the plot revolves around the melancholy pungency of life..that bittersweet experience.”

    As you are aware, this wasn’t anywhere near the top of my TBR list….however, with no surprise to you I’m quite sure, after reading your review I find myself compelled to give it a go…you know I am intrigued with all this speak of “King’s prose”.

    At the rate of how you beguile me into so many very varied books…I shall never want for a good read….in any genre…or length thereof! I still think you should be paid for your reviews…just saying…xxxxxx


    1. I liked to try and put it on the pile when you were choosing a book, I think it is something you would like and set you up for cracking on with the Dark Tower series. He does have a lyrical way of putting things which I think you will appreciate.

      Ah, to be paid for my reviews, would be a fine thing indeed. No matter how much I read I will always feel under read, so I will remedy that by expanding my genre pool and finding even more books to make you want to read. xxxxxx


  4. I haven’t read Stephen King for years. He’s been fossilised in the 1980s for me along with Arnie movies and bad hair. This one sounds really interesting and I think I’m going to add it to my list too.
    It’s funny how that cover now looks retro, whereas images like that used to signify cheap rubbish.


    1. I love the cover, it has everything you need, mildly sexy and sinister, as well as cheap. He’s still writing some good stuff, get yourself a blast from the past…then watch the Arnie film The Last Stand which feels like an 80’s film in the new millenium. As for the big hair well that’s totally up to you.


  5. King rarely fails to entertain. Just finished this gem a few weeks ago and now almost done with Doctor Sleep – he truly is the KING!


    1. I haven’t gotten around to Doctor Sleep, I best read The Shining first though and see how it holds up against the film…which was…an experience to say the least!


      1. I understand King did not like the original film which is why it was re-made. I liked the first one, but have not viewed the second.


        1. I haven’t checked out the second one either…I think I will stick with the original though, there is something compelling and downright freaky about it.


  6. I want to read this! First of all, it’s set in NC, my home state. I’d like to see how effectively King probes the people and the culture of NC in 1973. He has a fearless way of touching the core of human emotion.

    But, that said, Dr. Sleep, his sequel to The Shining, leaves me cold. Dr. Snore. IMHO.


    1. I am yet to experience Doctor Sleep, still it’s nice to keep one waiting so I won’t have long to wait for his next book when I finish reading it.

      For me, a Brit with little concept of carny life it was immersive but I have no idea of the accuracy..I would love to know what you think of it, when you get around to it.


  7. I have written much written by Stephen King but this one seems to have escaped me. It seems my list of TBR books has just lengthened. I must echo Christina’s comment, you should be paid for your reviews. Someone out there is missing out on a pretty special book critic. 🙂


    1. Once again I am happy to fill up your leisure time with more recommendations, I won’t let up on that score. I am looking into paid work for reviews and/or anything else that I can find…it does sound a a nice life to read and write for money, I am sure the idea is better than the reality but it will be a start…then there is that elusive novel that I need to finish…


  8. The cover is so kitsch, it’s wonderful in a way. I love a Stephen King book but haven’t heard of this one. Did it recently come out or is it an older one I missed? I love how different yet recognizable his storytelling is.


    1. If I remember rightly it came out last year so fairly recent…it did seem a bit under the radar I (also) remember. The front cover looked so great I couldn’t pass it up…I’m a sucker for all such things of such nature. King is more versatile than a lot of people give him credit for, I do like his work even if that one person claimed he was the modern day Dickens…


  9. The last Stephen King book I read was Cujo, which the author tried to pass as a horror book. I will read this one based on your recommendation, but I’m already prejudiced against king. My review will be probably biased as I never got a refund for reading Cujo and can’t seem to forget it.


    1. That’s a bit harsh on King maybe you should talk about book buyers consumer rights instead! At least this one is not billed as horror and I didn’t really mind that the crime element took a back seat. I suppose a hardened fan of the Hard Case Crime series may have been annoyed with it but I’m okay with that.


      1. Just kidding. Stephen King is a terrific story teller. But yes, I do prefer lovecraftian horror to Stephenesque horror. Would read Joyland because it seems to be a very engaging story.


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