Thursday, 2 September 2010

The Road

Original Post - Saturday, June 19, 2010

I finally read Cormac McCarthy's The Road which has been sitting on my shelves for a couple of years (along with lots of good company as I find it a lot easier to find books to buy than find time to read them)

I did my best to avoid reviews for both book and film but was aware of the very positive reaction to it and the many people who considered it a 'masterpiece'. This is not always a good place to begin with a book as it can only meet expectations or dissappoint.

It was also in a genre which has provided some of my favourite novels/films (Riddley Walker; A Canticle for Liebovitz; Planet of the Apes; Mad Max)

Riddley Walker in particular is one of my favourite books, although it differs significantly from The Road in being set far in the future, long after the War to end all Wars. The big surprise for me, however that although I felt echoes of Riddley Walker in The Road it was Russel Hoban's classic children's tale The Mouse and His Child which seems to be the more plausible progenitor of McCarthy's book. (As well as The Mouse and His Child it reminded me strongly of Tim Rose's reading of Come away Melinda  and indeed that song too is a plausible progenitor.)

A story of how the love of a father and child helps them  to overcome insurmountable odds despite the ominous presence of a scavenger who trails them, this tale of two clockwork mice seemed to hang over The Road all through my reading. That and my love for my children. Love is so strong in this book that I was tempted not to finish as the thought of how it would end was almost too heartbreaking.

But finish it  did, and I think I may just start at the beginning again, something I haven't done in many, many years. A lot of people have read this book. Those who haven't should join their number. It is a staggeringly good book.


  1. I saw the film of "The Road" before I read the book. I think one is as good as the other. The scene where the naked folk are kept in the basement as food is as well depicted in the film. It is what the film leaves out that makes it such a success. (you can hear the screams as the cannibals eat them but you are spared the gory details). The post- apocalypse genre has been done to death but my thoughts after reading this was: "this is what the end of the world will be like" . There are very few characters in it and the way they behave is incomprehensible to us in the comfort of our own armchairs.My favorite character is one we never see, the man who built the bomb shelter where they rest for a while before inexplicably leaving.
    This book is now on as an option in the comparative section of the Leaving Cert. I presented it to my students last year as a possible option to compare to "Children of Men". The boys loved it, the girls turned it down in favour of Casablanca and How Many Miles to Babylon. More's the pity.

    1. Haven't seen the film, nor have I read or seen Children of Men. My inability to stay awake through films has severely reduced my film viewing. Casablanca is great though! And How Many Miles... I haven't read it for a long, long time and my memory of it is beyond patchy.
      I didn't actually reread The Road but must do so soon. Just to remind myself of how high the bar is. Although I have also been lining up a reread of Blood Meridian and it's a couple of decades since I read that one.
      Whenever I try to decide what to read next I just end up realising how very many books there are that I want to read.

  2. "The Road" is also an option with "The old man and the sea" in the Leaving Cert Comparative course under the theme of relationships. Though I have Netflix I rarely watch movies for the same reason. I think asking people to concentrate for 90+ minutes is also disappearing. Went to the Odeon cinema in Portlaoise the Friday before last to see "Pacific Rim" (don't ask). It was a late showing and I was the only one in the theater and I think in the whole cinema. The staff kept coming in to see if I was still awake as they wanted to knock off early.

    1. I do hope to rediscover my movie watching mojo. I do love them but middle age, kids and an intermittent version of insomnia which involves short snatches of sleep without ever getting a full night's sleep have worn me down, temporarily.
      Re Pacific Rim, the fact that the staff were hopeful that you would leaved is a review in itself, don't you think?