Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Book Review - The Road

Sparse. Bleak. Dark. Cold. Challenging. Post-apocalyptic.

All these are words that perfectly describe The Road, the latest novel by Cormac McCarthy. This was my first McCarthy book, and it was quite a different kind of reading experience for me. This is minimalist fiction, I suppose; the only dialogue, narration and even punctuation present is the bare minimum needed to get the ideas across. This minimalism helps convey a sense of traumatized silence in the wake of a horrible, unnamed catastrophe that's left the world a shattered and broken place. It's a very emotional style of writing that is perfectly suited to the subject of The Road: a Man and his Boy, simply trying to survive in a world gone to hell.

This is a very personal feeling book; there are incredibly intimate scenes between father and son that really resonated with me, just because of the plain and bluntly emotional style its conveyed with. Most of the dialogue between the Man and Boy consists of one word questions and answers, but its the simplicity that really carries the emotion and feeling behind these simple conversations.

This is the real strength of the book, in my opinion: the naked emotional connection between father and son. Theres no pretense or selfishness; to quote the novel, "Each is the other's world entire." That sums up the connection between the two, and its conveyed beautifully through simplicity. The theme of "carrying the fire" used in the very end of No Country for Old Men is also picked up here and made into a symbol of the goodness that the main characters carry within them. It's this Fire that is a continual reassurance to the Man and Boy that they aren't losing their love and compassion for each other (and to a lesser extent the rest of humanity) in spite of the horror they endure every day simply trying to survive.

This is a thoroughly challenging book to read, however, and there are some very disturbing and graphic scenes that depict the state of the world its bleak, post-apocalyptic  and savage state. Eerie scenes of confrontations of vicious and even cannibalistic travelers are the norm in The Road. McCarthy pulls no punches in describing some pretty horrific scenes, and again it's the sheer simplicity of the descriptions that really makes it so horrific.

In spite of all the dark and dreary and even disturbing imagery, The Road is at heart a simple story of two people trying to survive and how their love for each other is what keeps them alive and going day after day. Simple but heartfelt emotion between father and son is beautifully portrayed here, and makes The Road one of my favorite books from recent times.

1 comment:

  1. @ Brahm

    I thought they translated the book into a movie brilliantly, and I ahve to say i actually like the movie more. I actually did a review on the movie a while back, which pretty much sums up all my thoughts on it: