Friday, September 14

The Road - Cormac McCarthy

A man and his young son make their way south, through the desolation of a post-apocalyptic US. On the way they search for food and fresh water, and hide from cannibalistic marauders. The man tries to shield his son from the nightmarish reality around them as much as he can, but is honest and pragmatic.
This sparse, stark novel was recommended by my sister, who reads fewer, but more literary, novels than I. A Pulitzer-prize winner and an Oprah recommendation, the novel is packed with worthiness, and it certainly has some of the hallmarks of a Great Work of Modern Literature - the lack of contraction and quotation marks in the dialogue particularly stood out for me. It's probably my under-educated outlook, but I couldn't see the merit of that particular decision.
The theme - lone survivors journeying through the world after global devastation - has been covered many times before, and I have to say that I've found a number of the FSF varieties more rewarding than this. The plot is certainly secondary to the relationship between father and son; only a little of their past comes through, and we never learn the nature of the disaster.
Perhaps the praise lavished on the novel stems from the comparative rarity of texts where fathers show devotion, self-sacrifice and tenderness for their children, and I suspect some comes from the relative dearth of fantasy/science fiction novels achieving literary acclaim.
I didn't hate the book, and I've certainly read worse, but I found the writing hypnotic rather than gripping and didn't really care what happened to the characters. In fact, my overwhelming emotion at the end of the novel was a (very faint) annoyance that I never discovered what caused the problem, except that it involved burning and a lot of residual ash, or even how long ago it was, though we do know it's within the unnamed boy's lifetime. If, however, you like literary novels and have a more artistic perception than I, The Road may very well be your cup of tea. - Alex

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