First published back in September of 1981, Stephen Kings classic psychological horror novel Cujo deservedly won the 1982 British Fantasy Award.  Since then, the novel has become one of Kings most well-known novels to date.

DLS Synopsis:
In Castle Rock, Maine, Joe Chambers two-hundred-pound Saint Bernard family dog named Cujo is out chasing rabbits in the fields around the Chambers property.  When the rabbit darts down a bolt-hole, Cujo claws his way through the surrounding earth in an attempt to reach his prey.  But deep in the narrow entrance to the limestone cave, Cujo’s burrowing has startled a sleeping inhabitant - a bat.  With his head stuck in the small hole, in a flurry of leathery wings, Cujo's maw is bitten by the rabies infected bat.

Following an argument, Joes wife - Charity and their son Brett go to stay with Charitys sister, leaving Joe alone with just Cujo for company.  With the effects of the viral disease now coursing through the canines bloodstream, Cujo begins to slip away from his normal passive self, and starts to show sudden sparks of aggression.  The dog’s otherwise moderate temperament is gradually slipping away for good.  Soon enough, the Chambers neighbour Gary Pervier is attacked and killed by the frenzied dog.  Not even the dog’s master can avoid the brutal attacks of Cujo, now that the rabies virus has fully taken over its senses.

Meanwhile, Donna Trenton together with her four-year-old son Tad, decide to take the family car to the Chambers to get it fixed.  Whilst parked up in the driveway, Donna is confronted by the ferocious Cujo, who proceeds to wildly batter the outside of her car in an attempt to get to the two terrified passengers.  To make matters worse, the car has now given up on them entirely, and no one is around to hear their cries for help.  Furthermore, hunger and thirst are beginning to take their effects on the two, under the scorching heat of the midday summer sun.

Trapped and helpless inside her car, Donnas time is running out to save herself and her son from the lethal effects of severe heatstroke and dehydration.  But just mere feet away outside the vehicle, they know Cujo is waiting…

DLS Review:
‘Cujo’ is certainly a varied and character rich read.  With a large proportion of the tale given over to the various characters’ back-stories and sub-stories (such as Donna Trenton’s affair with the poet Steve Kemp, her husband’s failing advertising business and the Chambers’ troublesome marriage), the storyline as a whole is constantly fluttering about through the various woe’s that have befallen each and every one of the characters in the tale.  Together, the overwhelming grief portrayed across the breath of the story sets down a solid block of anguish that allows the tale to ride through all the storms, purposefully drawing the characters closer together for a dramatic finale that successfully pulls together all of the many layers.

King writes with his usual flare for the love of storytelling, allowing the various sub story threads to expand and follow their natural courses; each one as compelling as the next.  Although King’s writing style is often criticised as being long-winded and rambling, it has to be said that he certainly knows how to keep the reader gripped and entertained throughout this elaborately weaved tales.

The claustrophobic elements of Donna and Tad’s desperate predicament with Cujo’s relentless siege are nail-biting to say the least.  This is heart-racing stuff, with King masterfully setting down a tense atmosphere which continuously claws at the reader’s heartstrings.

The ending (without wanting to ruin anything) is dramatic and shocking.  It hits you in the chest, leaving you numb and cold.  There is no ‘wrong doer’ here.  This is the complexities of life, stripped raw and exposed in all its bitter ruthlessness.  The novel plays on your emotional attachments towards these superbly developed characters, with the undoubted skill of a truly great writer.

This is a master class in tense and gut wrenching fiction, coaxing sympathy from even the most cold-hearted of readers.  A novel that seems to go a hell of a lot further than would otherwise have been expected.

The novel runs for a total of 345 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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