Friday, 10 April 2009

The Road - Cormac McCarthy

Read: October 2007

They are nameless. The man and his son. But they are us all. Walking The Road because it is the only way they can go. Alone. Heading for the coast. A post-apocalyptic world enshrouding them. Ransacked. Gutted. Ash rain tumbling from the grey blanket that was once called the sky. Perpetual gloom.

It is always there. The threat. From armed cannibalistic gangs, from hunger, from loss of hope. Horror assaulting the eyes behind every corner. And the sun no more to be seen. “He looked at the sky out of old habit but there was nothing to see.”

Polluted. Now the earth is expunging life from itself. But they keep walking the road south, fleeing the winter they know they cannot survive. Sometimes he remembers the before, but those memories are fading. And he will not let himself dream. The boy never even knew the before. But he knows plenty about life.

“He turned and looked. He looked like he had been crying.
Just tell me.
We wouldn’t ever eat anybody, would we?
No. Of course not.
Even if we were starving?
We’re starving now.
You said we weren’t.
I said we weren’t dying. I didn’t say we weren’t starving.
But we wouldn’t?
No. We wouldn’t.
No matter what.
No. No matter what.
Because we’re the good guys.
And we’re carrying the fire.
And we’re carrying the fire. Yes.

Sparse, understated. The Road is everything good in modern fiction. It is bleak and desolate. Yet through the gloom come little chinks of lights: it is life affirming, redemptive, real. You can taste the ash in the water, feel the gloom and almost reach out and touch the boys terror. It is a book everyone should read. Yes, it is that good.

Just pick it up and read the six pages of glowing praise from some of the worlds leading lights. You will be salivating when you are finished these. Worried? How can any work live up to such fantastic praise? I don’t know. But The Road does.

And then it ends. And it is an ending to befit the stark beauty of such a shattering novel.

9 out of 10

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