I’m definitely late to this party, but that’s the point of this blog. I bought The Road by Cormac McCarthy in Fopp for £3 years ago, with every intention of reading it as soon as possible. The more I heard about it, the more I heard about the dark, bleak, harrowing tale, the beauty of the writing, the further I felt from wanting to read it. I don’t think I ever thought I was going to be ready to read it. This weekend, I finally got around to it.
A man and his son travel south through a desolate, post-apocalyptic America, aiming for the coast.
There is no God and we are his prophets
Things I liked
There’s not much I can say about this that has not already been said. It was incredibly well-received when it came out, to warrant such quotes on the back of my copy that suggest McCarthy be nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature, for this novel, and others emphasising the long-term impact it will have on its readers, and literature to come. I have to say I agree. It has been eight years since The Road was released, five years since the film. To me it is interesting that, in the years following this adult post-apocalyptic novel, there has been a surge of popular teen fiction of the same theme. I’m not suggesting that novels such as the Hunger Games series, the Divergent Trilogy or the Maze Runner books are direct descendants of this, it just strikes me that teen fiction sometimes mirrors grown-up books – maybe to make sure the teens are up to date by the time they become adults, I don’t know.
Right. Here’s the real ‘Things I liked’ section. No more disclaimers.
The prose. It’s been said constantly about this book – hauntingly beautiful, simple, prose. It holds the characters apart from us by never fully letting us into their heads, and universalises them by leaving them unnamed. There were so many phrases I wish I had bookmarked to include here, just to show you how intense and observant McCarthy’s writing is. As a pedant I found it remarkably easy to let go of my inner editor and grammar persnicketer (yeah I’m neologising now) when McCarthy misses out apostrophes in words such as ‘won’t’ and ‘don’t’. It’s part of the style. Allow it. Move on.
The relationship between the boy and his father. I thought for a while there would be a huge twist where the boy had been dead the whole time, but realised I was projecting other recent reads onto everything I’m reading at the moment. Spoiler alert, that’s not what happens. The relationship between these two is so dependent. The boy relies on his father to get their food, keep them going. The father relies on the son to give him a reason to stay alive. The son was born after whatever mystery event occurred that covered the world in ash, and so does not understand a) what the world was like before and sometimes, b) why they should bother staying alive.
The moral issues. The dilemmas the father faces when it comes to the few people they meet on the road, and how he has to explain them to his son.
The dialogue. There are no speech marks in this book. You have to keep an eye out as to when there is speech and who is saying what. It is bleak, pragmatic dialogue. It fits with the greyness of the story.
It took me some time to decide which section this would be in, but it’s going here. The fact that you have to cannot skim read any of this book. If you don’t pay attention to what you’re reading, there’s a chance you won’t have a full appreciation of it. This is likely the case with most books, but it struck me particularly when reading this, probably because the prose is so sparse and there are no chapters, only sections.
Things I didn’t like
It…was pretty depressing?
But seriously, it’s quite a harrowing story. Dead babies and the like. Cannibals. Pretty rough. As mentioned above, it’s pretty bleak.
Should I read this?
Yes. Many of you will be reading this because you’ve already read it. For those of you who haven’t, go out and read it, ASAP.
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The Book Depository
You can buy the book here: http://www.bookdepository.com/Road-Cormac-McCarthy/9780330513005/?a_aid=SpidersLibrary
Because I am trying not to use Amazon in my own half-arsed protest-y way, I’d like to recommend to people that they check out The Book Depository, which is a great, user-friendly site with affordable books ranging from brand new releases to classics, and in many different editions at less-than brand new prices. As I am now officially an affiliate of The Book Depository, I gain a small commission if you use my affiliate link to buy books! Please do check it out, even if you don’t buy anything right now.