Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I normally post new reviews on Monday, but I don't know how much time I'll have tomorrow so I'm posting it today. Sorry there haven't been many blogs lately. My internet hasn't been working and I've been working way too much. I'll try to get book news to you again soon. Now for the book review...

In a land ravaged by nuclear war, we find a father and son who have managed to save not just themselves, but their humanity. The son was born just after war sunk the world into a nuclear winter. He never knew the world with animals running wild and plants blooming and dying with the seasons. He's also never known a world where humans don't fear one another.

In the world where he grew up, ash is constantly clouding the horizon, humans hunt each other for lack of any other available food, and masks are worn in attempt to postpone the inevitable radioactive poisoning from the atmosphere. And the only person he can trust is his father, who is using the last months of his life moving his son south, where it is bound to be warmer and hopefully safer.

The story follows the two on their journey down the road. Their run-ins with other humans are often graphic, with the father turning at one point to see a headless infant roasting on a skewer. The descriptions of falling forests, barren land, and starving people can seem hopeless at first, but in the end we see that the one thing that was never lost was a sense of hope.

Throughout the story the father tells the son the difference between good guys and bad guys, pointing out that they themselves are the good guys. The two, no matter how long they have to go without food, will never stoop to eating other humans. In teaching his son this, the father tries to preserve the son's humanity.

The Road is a quick and interesting read. The punctuation is a little weird, missing apostrophes and commas, along with quotation marks, but it makes the book a quicker read and even might be symbolic of the loss of culture and education. I haven't read other McCarthy books, so I don't know if the punctuation is a trademark of his, or if it was for this book alone.

I'd recommend picking this one up though. It definitely wouldn't have caught my eye if it weren't the book club selection here in Paris last month. I'm glad it was chosen though and I'd like to read more of McCarthy's work to see what it's like.

Other blog reviews of this book:
The Book Mine Set
She Wrote, He Wrote
Reading Reflections


Chason said...

It's a wonder that when surveyed most people say that if there was no other food source available they wouldn't resort to cannibalism. And yet there are historic instances in which people did just that. The Donner Party is the most famous example in the U.S., but there are many examples in popular culture including the film "Alive," the story of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, which crashed into the Andes on October 13, 1972. The survivors of the crash resorted to eating the deceased during their 72 days in the mountains.
I started reading "Suite Francaise," but I don't know if I'll finish it by the 29th. It has some very interesting language: "Gabriel Corte confided to his friends, something cow-like in her expression. I like that. A woman should look like a heifer: sweet, trusting and generous, with a body as white as cream." ~Something tells me that any modern woman wouldn't appreciate being called "cow-like."

Becca said...

Ah yes, but they ate already deceased humans. They didn't murder and eat anybody, did they?

As for Suite Francaise, I don't think any woman would have liked being called cow-like back then either. It's a testament to Gabriel Corte's character that he would talk about his mistress that way when with his friends. I don't think Nemirovsky liked him much either.

John Mutford said...

Hi there,
As with the punctuation liberties in Blindness, I appreciated the rationale behind it. I reviewed it here, and I hope you don't mind, but I linked to your review as well.

Becca said...

Hi John! Thanks for the links. And, funny thing, I read your The Road review just after I had written mine. I loved your point of view on it. Plus, whenever I finish a book I enjoy I tend to stalk the author and read anything and everything I can find about them. Heh.