I have always admired Stephen King as a powerful and emotive writer and over the last 40 years he has written what I can only describe as literary masterpieces. There are two books in particular which are prominent in my mind at portraying the author’s style from fantasy to horror namely “The Green Mile” and “The Shining”.
Joyland is equal to if not better than the aforementioned and in my opinion ranks as one of the greatest examples of the “coming of age” story ever written.....it is that good! It is true to say that I as a reader have a certain respect and fondness for “Devin Jones” as his experience in Joyland mirrors my own youthful dalliances as both an amusement park worker and a camp councillor in America during the mid 1970’s. The writing is so powerful that at times I lost all knowledge of time and place so engrossed was I in the mystical storytelling ability of Mr King.
Devin Jones has taken a summer job as a worker and ride operator at Joyland Amusement Park in South Carolina. In recent times Joyland was the location and scene for the disappearance and murder of a young lady called Linda Gray. Devin will spend the summer and beyond learning the business and defining his character as he makes the sometimes painful but also memorable journey from youth to adult. He will form long lasting friendships with the amusement park staff in particular his landlady Mrs Shoplaw, Erin and Tom, the tragic and crippled Mike and his mum the mysterious Annie Ross, Devin’s first love.
In King’s hands the layers of the story and the characters unfold as we sweep forward between the past and the present. The crime element remains secondary to the main theme which is in essence a study of human relations and a longing back to a time of excitement and innocence. This is not to say that the hunt for the murderer is forgotten, rather this theme is kept discretely alive as the threads of the story are expertly brought together.
What sets Stephen King apart from fellow authors is his understanding of the human condition and his inherent ability to bring this alive throughout the pages of his writing...
“When you’re twenty-one, life is a roadmap. It’s only when you get to be twenty-five or so that you begin to suspect you’ve been looking at the map upside down, and not until you’re forty are you entirely sure. By the time you’re sixty, take if from me, you’re fucking lost.”
“Fifty yards ahead of us, a doe had come out of the woods. She stepped delicately over one rusty GS&WM track and onto the railbed, where the weeds and goldenrod were so high they brushed against her sides. She paused there, looking at us calmly, ears cocked forward. What I remember about that moment was the silence. No bird sang, no plane went droning overhead. If my mother had been with us, she’d have had her camera and would have been taking pictures like mad. Thinking of that made me miss her in a way I hadn’t in years.”
“It doesn’t have to be the last good time. But sooner or later the last good time would come around. It does for all of us.”
I find it astounding that a book of such beauty and deep emotive thoughts can possibly be targeted with negative reviews....”Shallow supernatural elements. No real suspense or horror or twists-it’s amazing I managed to finish it”.....one such reviewer states. The point of this story is we are not dealing with blood thirsty flesh eating zombies! if you want that look elsewhere...rather the crime, the horror, the suspense is all present but expertly packaged in an enthralling coming of age story...”Mike’s thing was clearer. Simpler. Purer. It wasn’t like seeing the ghost of Linda Gray, but it was akin to that, okay? It was touching another world.
The conclusion of Joyland is nothing short of astounding and expertly brings all the pieces of the story into a satisfactory whole.....I implore you to read this is a major work of such importance from a modern literary genius.