8 Jun 2009

Book Review: Cujo, Stephen King

My hopes weren’t high going into Cujo. King claims he can barely remember writing his famous tale of a rabid Saint Bernard (he was an alcoholic and drug addict at the time), but I wondered if perhaps he merely wanted to forget… That's not the case. Cujo may have a slow build-up to its tense climax (one of the author’s better closings, it should be said), but it’s never dull thanks in part to the surprisingly measured structure. For me, though, the novel’s real strength is found in its realistic portrayal of two families, the Cambers (country-dwellers) and the Trentons (former city-dwellers). Both have serious problems and are on the brink of falling apart. Enter Cujo. There may be some significance to the juxtaposition of these families, some metaphors to be found in the rabid dog and the disease-like rot that seems to infect the husbands and wives of the respective families; then, there may not. I suspect, however, that Cujo is meant to be viewed as more than a horror novel. Indeed, the grisly scenes of murder that litter other horror novels are few in number here; instead, the focus is suspense and the ever-present fear of death rather than death itself. I expected this to be one of King’s lesser efforts… I was pleasantly surprised.

6 comments:

Sophie Playle said...

Sounds good. I've not read much of King - always heard mixed reviews. I read 'The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon' and thought that was pretty good, but I tried to read 'Salam's Lot' but didn't understand what was going on... Maybe that's just me.

Barry Napier said...

Agreed. While it's one of his most overlooked books, it's absolutely one of his best. Your review has made me want to pull this one off of the shelf and re-read it for the first time in about 7 years.

Brian G Ross said...

One of the only King novels from that early(ish) period that I haven't read. I'll have to hunt it out and give it a look... after all the other stuff I'm tryin' to get through.

:o)

Steven J. Dines said...

Sophie - As with most things, it's best to make up your own mind on King. I suggest reading a handful of his novels before forming an opinion of him one way or the other. My recommendations would be Duma Key, Hearts in Atlantis, Misery, The Long Walk (as Richard Bachman) and/or The Green Mile. At least one of those should do it for you.

Barry - If you do end up rereading Cujo, be sure to let me know if you feel it has diminished or if it remains one of his best...

Brian - worth checking out, definitely. Deceptively simple but really quite effective...and the ending isn't a letdown for a change!

Thanks for dropping by, guys.

Danielle Ferries said...

I've always loved this one and marvel at the idea of King allegedly having no or little memory of writing it. Whatever he was doing I think he did a pretty good job.

Steven J. Dines said...

Agreed!

Thanks for stopping by, Danielle.