Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Joyland - Why did I read it, and why did I love it?

I am a self-avowed sissy when it comes to horror.  It's a genre I steer clear of--not into monsters, aliens, gore, twisted psychos, etc.  I'm also not a fan of amusement parks, with the sole exception of Disneyland.  I don't like roller coasters, the midway, creaking rides that feel like they're going to fall apart, or games of chance that you know are totally rigged.

So, why did I read Joyland, by Stephen King?

  1. I love time-travel books and read King's 11/22/63 last year and loved it.  I was impressed by King as a writer and storyteller, and have been on the lookout for other King books that might appeal to me.  
  2. I read a review of Joyland at Shelf Love this summer, and put it on the short list of King possibilities.
  3. It was the October book selected by the Goodreads TuesBookTalk Read-a-Longs group that I am a member of.
  4. It's October and everyone else in the book blogging world is reading spooky Halloween books, and while I don't like horror I do like ghost stories.
  5. It was checked in at the library when I stopped by a couple of weeks ago.
  6. I had just finished Madame Tussaud and I wasn't sure what I wanted to read next.
And...why did I love it?

King really is a good writer.  His books are easy to read, his dialogue sounds like real people talking, and the rhythm of his prose sucks me in.

I liked the premise of Joyland--it takes place in the 1970s, and is nostalgic.  I'm convinced that it's at least part autobiographical.  The protagonist, Dev Jones, is 21, tall (6 feet, 4 inches), a wanna-be writer. King in 1973 would have been just a few years older, is every bit as tall, and was an aspiring writer.  Dev is wonderful--angsty, big-hearted, self-deprecating, charmingly naive.  He's a sweet kid, and I liked the fact that it was a story that he as a 60-something tells--this means that I know he survived the horrors he faced at Joyland, an amusement park on the North Carolina shore, during the fall of 1973.

I liked the world King created in Joyland--the beach town where the Joyland amusement park is the main summer attraction.  I liked listening to the jargon of the carnys and the greenies (the new summer hires).  I may not personally like riding roller coasters, but I love the anthropological and sociological thrill I get when I learn about a different culture or society.

I liked the whodunit aspect of the story--as a mystery, I thought King did a great job of setting up the red herrings, providing the clues, and literally providing the fun-house mirrors that distort what seems to be the truth.

I loved the idea that Dev is a life-saver (literally), while trying to track down the identity of a life-taker.

The pace was marvelous--this was not a hectic book wherein the reader is racing from plot point to plot point.  The story unfolds leisurely. The setup is gradual.  The side stories are intriguing, and the side characters are fully developed people with their own stories waiting in the wings.  The final couple of chapters pay off big when it comes to thrills and tensions--I literally couldn't put the book down for the last 50 pages.

All in all, a very satisfying October book.


  1. It's the carnival/amusement park aspect of this book that intrigues me the most. And while I don't love the horror of King's novels, I've always admired the way he creates such authentic characters. Great review.

  2. You've convinced me to read this book, Jane. I was impressed by his writing too when I recently read The Shining, so I was thinking about reading more of his books. as well as Doctor Sleep!

  3. I have never read a Stephen King novel, for many of the reasons you listed...I am a total sissy too. As a teen I had to put down The Amityville Horror as I was too horrified to finish it!
    Your review however, makes me want to read this book. I know what you mean about "the anthropological and sociological thrill I get when I learn about a different culture or society". It is wonderful to travel to a different time and place and spend some time there.

  4. It has been a long time since I have read King. I have been considering picking up some of his newer books as this one sounds good and I am also interested in Doctor Sleep.

    Another appeal here is that there seems to be a certain mystique associated with amusement parts.

  5. I haven't read Stephen King since college and your first paragraph describes me pretty well, too, but you've managed to convince me to read Joyland. Just need to decided whether to read it before or after 11/22/63.

    1. Joyland is a quick read--11/22/63 is not, though it does move along, it is a longish book. Not sure if that makes a difference, but Joyland is one of those filler books, when you finish a major book and are not ready to tackle another major book quite yet.

  6. I read King voraciously when I was in my early 20's and loved him but for some reason stopped entirely. When I read Under The Dome recently, I remembered why I loved King so much once upon a time. The man really does know how to write a story that will suck readers in and there is always something unique about every book her writes.

  7. I really have to read Joyland now. Lovely review, Jane. I really liked the reasons why you picked it up, and the reasons why you loved it. I haven't picked it up yet, I was busy rereading The Shining and bought Doctor Sleep instead (about to review it, loved it). I will be getting Joyland very soon! Very happy to know it satisfied you so much. Thrilled, actually. I love it when people discover how well he can tell a story.