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The Road

April 27, 2009

It’s occurred to me that far from the mish-mash that I origninally intended this blog to be, it might well turn out to be a book blog. This is no problem as it resolves another working project I had going  alongside this one, which was to start a website/blog on books I had recently read and wanted to recommend. I half started the site but then got sidetracked into this blog instead but it’s all good as I think Martha’s Kitchen is as good a place as any to write about books I love and perhaps love not so much…

theroad2Anyway, The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Really good! Best read in one sitting and not in 1 hour chunks on the bus to work, as I did! But all the same the themes, the imagery, the characterisation just stays with you, haunts you even.

The story is of an unamed man and his son travelling through a burned out, dystopic America trying to make their way safely to the coast, avoiding marauders that would murder them both without a second thought and feast on their corpsed flesh. The most striking theme that runs continuously through the novel is that of how low mankind can fall to the point of lost humanity and also of the intense struggle to maintain one’s humanity when all around have lost theirs. This is the struggle of the man and his son. The man constantly maintains his and his son’s goodness merely on the strength they haven’t descended into killing people for food and shelter or eating humans unlike their fellow ‘travellers’.  On the one occasion when the man does kill another, it is only because his life and his child’s are in danger a fact that he is at pains to justify. Another theme  is the pure innocence of the child which despite all he has seen and endured still remains intact and untainted. His innocence serves as a stark contrast to the fallen world about him and is perhaps a sign of hope for a  new and better future or even of redemption for the world’s past sins.

I was personally challenged by the boy’s unwavering faith and trust in his father. He would ask a question and receive a monosyllablic answer and be ok with it. Reading this I was like ‘What! Ask more questions!’. In fact it would be the father who seemed unsatisfied with the boy’s responses and would push further to make sure that all was ok, which seemed to me to say more about the man’s trust and faith in himself to adequately take care of his son. All the way through, you are just rooting for this man not to give up on himself or his son and to keep going because surely some sort of salvation is ahead even if it does not seem so.

The novel paints a very bleak vision of the  end of the world, it’s not just dystopic but a nihlistic void in which death is double-edged sword, the human instinct to survive fights against. Horrors and shocks await you at the turn of each page and you wonder how this will end, if it will end. That the novel has no chapters makes you feel as though you are travelling on the same never-ending road as the man and boy. Classic stuff!

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