Joyland is a fantastic story.
This is a compelling and yet oddly gentle tale of a young man experiencing the ache of heartbreak and the curve-balls life can throw at you.
As it happens, Joyland is written by that master suspense Stephen King. So when there’s the mention that the Horror House in the Joyland amusement park might actually be haunted you have to pay attention.
There’s a carnival fortune teller in Joyland. She’s good at what she does; she knows what her customers want to hear and is expert at weaving believable stories out of their experiences and expectations. Early in the book this fortune teller makes a suitably ominous but vague warning for Dev, our central character, and he’s smart enough to hold it at arm’s length while wondering whether there might actually be some truth in her prediction.
For me, the fortune teller was the avatar of possibility as Joyland came to life. Is she just Rosalind Gold, full of the Talk and the ability to bring stories to life? Or was she Fortuna, a real psychic, and is there really supernatural danger in Joyland? Is the author telling a story about coming of age or is there something else lingering in the background?
As the first few chapters zoomed by, in the page-turning way they do in good books, it is all too possible to forget that Stephen King, the Stephen King, is our storyteller.
We follow Dev has he manages to land a summer job at the Joyland amusement park. We already know his relationship is on the rocks and in just a few pages we’re fully bought in to the romance. It is also clear that Dev is entering an alien world. There are the carnival traditions of Joyland, the Talk, trying to control the fearsome rides and there’s even the terrible chore of wearing The Fur.
As we read through Joyland we may experience the bitter-sweet fruits of young love but we get plenty of life. You could almost let your guard down.
Joyland is a Stephen King novel and despite all this life there is also death. The prophecies of the fortune teller still linger on Dev’s mind and the story, while maintaining character, takes a few twists and turns before the end.
I’m reminded why I so greatly enjoy Stephen King. He’s earned his reputation and he uses it wisely. I sat back and enjoyed Joyland. I’m not saying that I let my guard down but I let the twists come to me.
Liked it? Joyland is thoroughly recommended.
Disclaimer: I enjoyed an advanced reading copy of the book. Joyland, Stephen King, £7.99, Titan Books.