‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, Review by Corinne Donnelly
As we near the end of this nightmarish year, what better way to lighten the mood than with a horror novel? Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot recounts the tale of a small town in Maine with a dark past. On a hill overlooking the town sits the Marsten House. Vacant for many years, the house is most well-known for the notoriety of its former owner, a man who murdered his wife and then hung himself. When Ben Mears, a writer who spent his formative years in “the Lot,” returns to begin his new novel, strange things begin to occur. He soon learns that he and the town may be in grave danger.
The novel is told in third-person limited perspective, with some characters favored over others. The reader most often reads through the eyes of Ben, who provides a unique outsider’s perspective. Ben’s love interest, Susan Norton, offers a more intimate view of the town’s culture and values, as she has lived in the town her entire life. Every so often, a chapter or two is devoted to a wide swath of the community, and the reader encounters many distinct personalities. King’s devotion to character shines immensely throughout the novel, as he gives each townsperson an incredibly intricate backstory.
Atmosphere and setting play a key role in the narrative. The lore behind the Marsten House, as well as its infamy within the town, weaves a haunting web as the story unfolds. Every strange occurrence finds its way back to the house, and as the plot quickens, its evil looms larger on the page and in the mind of the reader. King is known for his literary allusions, so it comes as no surprise that the Marsten House has parallels to Hill House from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.
If you can, I highly recommend steering clear of spoilers, as the novel relies heavily on suspense. The reader investigates with Ben and his cohorts as they dig into the mysteries of the town and its inhabitants. While the novel is long and wordy, don’t be fooled by King’s descriptive paragraphs. One moment everything will seem calm and pleasant, and the next you’ll be abruptly pulled into mortal danger. No character is safe.
Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot is a horror classic of epic proportions. Don’t be surprised if it seems familiar, as it appears throughout much of King’s body of work, and since its publication in 1975, it has spawned many imitations. I guarantee you’ll spend many a sleepless night before and after reading it. Half of the US isn’t sleeping anyway, so why not give it a try?