Newest Review: ... way Mr Gaunt does business, no price tags, he'll take whatever the buyer can afford and there's ALWAYS conditions to be met. A lot... more
Something for everyone, but all at a price!
Needful Things - Stephen King
Member Name: Boonoiy
Needful Things - Stephen King
Date: 07/02/02, updated on 07/02/02 (135 review reads)
Advantages: Gripping and exciting., Can't put it down - it's that good, Reasonably priced for such a long book
Disadvantages: 800 pages long - could be off-putting for some...?
Well, another day older and another great Stephen King book finished - I've just re-read this great book and I thought the time was right to get a bit of a Dooyoo op out about it. So here goes, from the top: A 1, a 2, a 1-2-3-4:
Not the shortest of books this, just 10 pages short of the 800 mark but it goes at one heck of a pace throughout.
The obvious place to begin.
The fictional town of Castle Rock in Maine, the setting for a lot of King's books si the setting for Needful Things. A sleepy town, left pretty much to its own devices throughout the autumn (fall if you like) and winter months, is about to fall under the spell of something of a mad magician.
Autumn has fallen (get it? Fallen - oh never mind) and a new shop has opened in the small downtown area of "The Rock" with a name like Needful Things it could sell anything and arouses more than a little interest on the local grapevine.
Opening day, early October - nobody wants to appear too eager so the shop does a slow trade, a few would-be customers look around and fall in love with the proprietor, Mr Leland Gaunt from Akron, Ohio. Out of towners are not usually so popular in The Rock and the instant popularity of Mr Gaunt is a sure sign that he's something special. Brian Rusk is the first to go in, he gets the one and only baseball card that he wants for the minimal price of 85 cents and is more than happy to accede to Leland's conditions of sale: Brian is to play a trick on a local woman who he is totally unconnected to, she'll think it's someone else's doing and the job'll be a good 'un. Once the trick is played, the card (a very rare 1956 Sandy Koufax Topps trading card, signed "To Brian" - of all the coincidences!) will be his. Wow! Brian is in heaven with the thought of this but, once the trick is played he soon finds out that the trading is not over until Mr Gaunt says t
he trading is over!
This is the way Mr Gaunt does business, no price tags, he'll take whatever the buyer can afford and there's ALWAYS conditions to be met. A lot of tricks are played on a lot of the town's members and many local feuds are fuelled and brought to a head. Lovers fall out, old enemies fight (often to the death and yet the Sherrif is unaccountably unable to catch Mr Gaunt in!
The plot follows, in depth, the tricks and the repercussions of the tricks. Everyone gets just about the perfect purchase from Needful Things and the entire town ends up at each other's throats.
How can such a man be stopped? Who can resist his hypnotic charms and his way of dealing with people? There's a lot of plot to go through and a lot of King's usual character history here, we know just about all there is to know about the massive number of characters in the book.
Basic plot: Everyone's set against everyone else for their right to keep their purchase.
Where to start? - so many to name and describe I could be here all day! OK:
Sherrif Pangborn (Alan): One of the principals, as I've said, there's a lot of history to the characters and Pangborn is no exception. He's one of the characters from King's older books (see The Dark Half) and there's reference to the events already seen in other books. Pangborne is seeing the friend of his dead wife, a bit of a scandal but nothing to put the town too far out of kilter. He's really guilt stricken about his wife's demise and he's desprate to get into Needful Things to see what all the fuss is about. The typical (for King) small town cop - suspicious, resourceful, helpful and a great character in the town.
Polly Chalmers: One of the town's eccentrics, the 1st to visit Needful Things in opening hours - she takes a cake as a welcome and is frowned upon. She's a
long suffering arthritic, her hands are misshapen claws of which she's extremely embarrased. She buys an amulet from Mr Gaunt and is relieved to find that it works for her hands - but what the consequences? Mysterious, kind and lovely, the perfect partner for Alan.
Leland Gaunt: Should I have put this character first on the list? I think maybe I should have but, oh well. Mr Gaunt is a total mystery, he's basically pure evil in a shop - has a knack of knowing what his customers want, when they'll come by and how far they're all willing to go for their "needful thing" and he does a booming business. Tall, well groomed, an easy man to listen to and a superb salesman - there are obviously hidden depths to Leland from the first time we meet him.
Brian Rusk: 11 year old, buys a trading card and starts the whole ball rolling in the town with his prank. The tragic tortured soul.
Norris Ridgewick: Buys a Bazun fishing rod and reel for a very reasonable price. He's one of the town deputies and a very good small town cop. In awe of Alan.
Nettie Cobb: Buys a Carnival Glass lampshade (again for much less than its worth - you get the idea, follows something of a trend). The nervous friend and employee of Polly's, she's never done anyone any harm and does not want to either. (I guarentee that you'll feel real suympathy for Nettie).
Wilma Jerzyk: Nutter and enemy of Nettie's after a spat over Nettie's barking puppy. Dies before she can buy anything.
Cora Rusk: Brian's mum, buys a picture of Elvis. Her best friend Myra Evans and her fall out over the picture and a pair of sunglasses that Myra's bought (saves me adding a special Myra Evans section).
Danforth Keeton: The town's head selectman - buys a game called "Winning Post" and believes it can win him enough to stop his gambling debts being discovered. A sad act really, feels
persecuted and is hopelessly addicted to gambling.
Ace Merrill: The teddy boy, hood type. Comes back to town after a drug deal goes bad and enters into the employment of a certain Mr Gaunt.
Reverends Rose and Martin: The 2 opposing churchmen of the town - Baptists and Catholics. Set against each other and you can tell that sparks will fly!
The rest of the characters really would take me all day to write abnout and I think I've just about covered the principals here. On to my thoughts....
There are a lot of themes which come out in this book; the desparation to own and retain something which is really special on a personal level, characters display traits of gambling adiction, drug addiction, alcholism, embezlement, grief, madness and self pity and innocence. The characters of the book are all very well described, well defined within the context of the book. The feeling of small town life gone bad and the feuds and quibbles are all easy to recognise, we've all seen them before in our lifetime. Thuis, as usual with King, gives the fantastic a believability which would not be possible otherwise. Take something amazing and break it down into manageable chunks and you'll have the readers in the palm of your hand! This seems to be King's way of doing things.
The book is long, there's no doubt about it, but I managed to get through it in a matter of only 3 days, it moves at such a pace it is impossible to put down. You'll think to yourself "I'll just read a couple iof pages while I'm waiting for the toast to pop" and before you know it you've finished a whole 50 page chapter and your toast is burned!
In one sentence: Readable, gripping, exciting and nigh-on impossible to put down.
This is a book which will grab Stephen King fans and those new to his books in equal measure and leave you gasping for breath.
Published by New English Library priced at £6.99 (plus a little something....).