The Road, Cormac McCarthy

Bleak, harrowing and depressing. I think these would be the three words I’d used to describe this book. It’s no bundle of laughs, that’s for sure.

The book describes the journey of a father and son in a dystopian world, where humanity has been all but wiped out, along with pretty much the rest of nature. Determined to go South (although this is just a habit now, a distant dream of something better), they trudge along this road, trying to survive with little provisions and trying not to be eaten by surviving humans, now cannibals.  This is pretty much the surmise of the book and not much actually even happens during the novel, yet through this simple storyline and a series of flashbacks, the reader is able to piece together what has happened. It’s strange reading a story with so little action and it feels a little monotonous at times – they wake up, walk, look for food, eat, go to sleep, and do the same everyday – but this is a deliberate way of portraying the monotony of their lives, and their constant battle for survival. I watched the advert for the film version and it looked like it was trying to make it a lot more into an action film rather than a reflective one, but perhaps that was just the advert.

It’s beautifully written and I love McCarthy’s style, particularly the rejection of speech marks, almost as if at the end of the world, people don’t need the correct punctuation any more. It’s easy to read, drawing you in immediately and hooking you until the very end which, not to give any spoilers away, I’m still not sure is a good or bad thing.

There’s ultimately no redemption for the protagonist, and no specific reason given for the events which have caused such a vast amount of innocent suffering. I’m studying this book in a Bible & Literature seminar this week, linking it to the Book of Job which I think will be very interesting.

To be honest, it’s hard to say that I enjoyed this book when I just felt so overwhelmingly depressed the whole time I was reading it, but I think it’s wonderfully written and tragically moving and altogether deserving of all the acclaim it has received. Dystopian fiction has become a big thing recently and I’m currently reading The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey prior to its release (thanks Penguin!) which actually starts out in a very similar way. Yet I think few dystopian novels evoke such emotion as The Road, and few are able to. There’s something about the bleakness and lack of hope which makes this books so gripping and if nothing else, it makes you question your own place in the end of the world. I’m 100% sure that I would not have made it as far as they do and now I’m scared that the world’s going to end soon.

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