Thursday, May 6, 2010

Book Review - No Country for Old Men

This is the second Cormac McCarthy book I've read, the first one being The Road. While written in the same sparse and minimalistic way, this is a very different tale than The Road, focusing on what happens to people thrown into out of control situations and forced to survive. The main difference between the two, in my mind is the dialogue. There is a lot more of it here, and it's less sparse than The Road was, much less so in fact. It's altogether more accessible, I think, simply because it's a more normal kind of story. The story itself is simple, but don't let that fool you, as it's through this simplicity that McCarthys strengths shine through the brightest.

The dialogue here is what really stands out to me. There's just so much of it; most of the novel is not carried by harrowing action scenes but by page after page of banter between killers, police and drug runners. Action is present though, and quite forcefully so. McCarthy is typically blunt in describing gruesome scenes of violence and murder here, but these are outnumbered by terse conversations leading up to and following the action scenes. I generally prefer dialogue to action, as long as it's well done, and I could honestly read the narration and dialogue between characters over and over and over again. Like I said before, the strength of this novel is in the dialogue.

No Country for Old Men is a few different things: it's a western, it's a mystery/detective story, it's a chase story and it's even a psychological thriller. Theres pages of thought provoking narration and revealing and even intimate dialogue and glimpses into the minds of the characters that McCarthy has created, and that's why I like this book so much. While it is a grim and gruesome read at times and not recommended for the faint of heart, No Country for Old Men is a sparse, hard edged and brilliant novel that I highly recommend.

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