Last week I was perusing the shelves of an acquaintance’s personal library that I’d define as an amalgam of thriller, mystery, crime and action novels, predominated by the works of Daniel Silver, Lee Child and James Patterson. I came across one book among the many however, that didn’t quite fit in with its neighbours: The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I’d heard of this book of course, there now being a ‘major motion picture’ of it, but I’d never really taken much of an interest in it and therefore knew little to nothing about it.
Aside from the blurb, the back cover showcased an impressive collection of review exerts from major global publications, all commending McCarthy on this literary triumph.
“Consistently brilliant.” – The New York Times
“Wildly powerful.” – Time
“The writing throughout is magnificent.” – Chicago Sun Times
And so, I decided to read it. I wonder, why has nobody ever recommended this book to me? To describe it in a handful of words: intriguing, sobering, chilling, heart-warming and heart-breaking.
‘The Road’ will break your heart, warm your heart, soften your heart, harden your heart and make your heart skip a beat or twenty. A searing, post-apocalyptic tale of father and son, the book is essentially an exploration of the heart, the mind, human instincts, the mentality of survival and the nature of unconditional love. Without ever mentioning the names of the two main characters, nor the names of any countries, towns or dates, McCarthy very powerfully strips his book of superficial distractions and thereby creates a timeless, focused and naked tale of love.
The first thing you notice when you begin reading McCarthy’s highly acclaimed best-seller is the complete and total lack of chapter titles and quotation marks. At first, I found this slightly off-putting, as the descriptions and the direct speech wove in and around each other seamlessly, standing in stark contrast to the highly punctuated literature that I’m used to. But once immersed in the story and flowing easily with its rhythm, I found that this style of writing served to accentuate the story’s themes of sparsity, simplicity, bare survival and unadulterated love.
In addition to this very daring and clever bastardisation of the traditional narrative, I can confidently say that McCarthy has an astounding command of the English language, exercising his knack for vividness and poignancy throughout ‘The Road’. While some paragraphs were purely for the sake of reporting action, others were dedicated entirely to intense, moving and thought-provoking contemplations, delving into the very fragile psyches of the post-apocalyptic mind.
‘The Road’ was a spontaneous read for me and perhaps that’s why I enjoyed it so much; I was free from preconceived notions of its content, style or calibre. I read it without knowing anything about it and I loved it. Never before had I read a book of such style and simplicity, finding myself at first disconcerted but soon intensely moved and rapt. Without the clutter of your traditional narrative, Cormac McCarthy very effectively focuses ‘The Road’ on a handful of absorbing, provoking and affecting themes and had me, by its end, in a state of deep contemplation. He simultaneously broke and warmed my heart and although I wouldn’t add ‘The Road’ to my favourites list, I would definitely recommend it as a quick, wonderful and profound read.