The go-to site for what makes life worth living in and around Petersfield, Hampshire, and some other stuff too. For flaneurs, bon vivants, indeed boulevardiers of every complexion - why go anywhere else?

Friday, 14 November 2008

Draw your children closer: Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road'

I finished 'The Road' feeling like someone had stuck a rusty corkscrew between my ribs and slowly twisted. Recalling Einstein's prediction that 'World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones', this astonishing novel reveals a world where all colour, warmth, light and shade have been turned down to their lowest settings, where life is reduced to a grim cave painting. But don't be put off - it's also compulsively readable - cliche or not, I couldn't put it down, but that was in part because I didn't want to put the light out and face the dark. 

Can you describe a book so brutally, gut-wrenchingly bleak as 'great'? I guess there is hope in the love between father and child protagonists (though even this is as agonised and desperate a portrayal of that inter-dependency as you will ever read) and there is just the possibility of light at the end of this terrible journey, but it's fair to say that more optimistic takes on the human condition are widely available. 

But are they more realistic? 'The Road' makes you fear that this, but for the grace of whoever, is just the way it is - that in the end it all comes down to a rat-like survivalist instinct, and that if we've cared to notice, we've seen plenty of similar journeys down similar roads, in many theatres of bitter conflict in the post-Cold War world - and furthermore that, if we don't get our act together, this is a road that could be waiting for any of us. 

A book to make you think, and shiver, and draw your children closer. Masterful. A film of this will be out soon. Read the book first. 

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