Monday, May 10, 2010

The Road - A book review

Author: Cormac McCarthy
Publishing house: Penguin

The road by Cormac McCarthy has garnered much attention from critics having won the Pulitzer Prize (among others) for fiction in 2007.

The Novel’s narrative, set around the time of the end of civilization, follows in a straightforward manner a father and son embarking upon a journey across the countryside towards the sea in an America ravaged by an unexplained and unforeseen natural calamity. As the two trudge on with nothing more than a shopping cart, it can be seen that most life has been drained out of a world turned to ice and cinders with all natural light of the sun blotted out. They must also survive on whatever provisions they chance upon they have while stealthily evade those remnants of humanity who have descended into cannibalism, traveling in bands killing the surviving men and taking the womenfolk for slaves. In the midst of such soul grating circumstances, the sole factor that drives the characters forward to the semi-mythical coast is the father’s flickering faith that there surely must be some good people out left who are pulling through all this bleakness together.

The intensity of McCarthy’s trademark realism is not ferreted away by the fact that basic elements such as the names are not mentioned and conventions such as punctuation are avoided as far as possible. In fact it seems that he deliberately is eschewing these details so as to avoid the dilution of the sense of “the here and the now” at the same time, the book can also be interpreted as an allegory with the father and son representing two natures of an individual. Experience and despair balanced by innocence and hope and driven by faith which is,by nature,irrational and intangible.

McCarthy’s writing displays a deceptively simple style (akin to that of the great Hemingway) yet the profoundest emotions are successfully evoked. In fact, at times the writing seems to occupy a liminal space between prose and poetry owing to McCarthy’s knack for conjuring brilliant similes. There is beauty in McCarthy’s portrait of desolation. There are horrifying images to stark and crude to mention and when our protagonists are forced to countenance them
In many instances in can be seen that the boy’s moral compass that arises solely from his innocence is his father’s sole anchor that forms the basis for his faith in humanity. When circumstances prevent the father from complying with his son is when it becomes particularly heart wrenching.

Though the book will appear to be something of an acquired taste to some, it constitutes required reading for all …every word in this book, which seems to echo vast silences, is to be savored. One can not rush into the book expecting everything to unfold but with a little patience and reflection one will not only learn about the human spirit but gain insight into the nature of their being. I would shun the conventional label ‘post apocalyptic novel’ since there is a certain maturity to the writing that accompanies its overwhelmingly gritty realism and humanistic message.
The book is highly recommended. The story has recently undergone a cinematic adaptation (starring viggo Mortenson as the dad) though one can't be too certain how the pacing translates onto celluloid while keeping the heavy themes in mind...If sped up, somehow i feel everything the book labors to convey won't get acroos to viewers.I haven't caught it yet but with the exception of The Godfather few film surpass their books.

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