books · dystopia

[REVIEW] The Road – Cormac McCarthy

*Quick note: I am quite excited to share with you all my first review for the blog! I’d always wanted to start up a blog but never did (I’m not quite sure why) but I have finally done it.*

Perhaps one of the most depressing reads? I think so.

The Road is bleak, grey and cold but is a brilliantly new story of a post-apocalyptic future set in a ruined America. 

This is actually one of the set texts for one of my course modules for university. We are studying utopian (and dystopian) texts at the moment and this book concludes the module perfectly. From the start we studied Plato and Thomas More, explored the possibilities of a perfect society and discussed in detail whether or not it could actually work. As time progressed, the stories grew grim and dark as writers slowly left the optimistic view that utopia could happen.

Cormac McCarthy explores a nation that has been left desolate after humans (presumably) destroyed it with fire and war. Readers follow the story of a man and his son, fighting to survive in a land with little food and water. They struggle in ashes and snow, and are left with remnants of the past.

Interestingly, McCarthy narrates in the third-person perspective which creates the effect of us, as readers, watching their story unfold. I find that by calling the characters ‘the man’ and ‘the boy’, McCarthy widens the audience, allowing the man and the boy to be anyone. It makes them easier to relate to.

I did find it to be quite difficult to read sometimes – sentences often start in the middle of a thought and I was carried along with the episodic flow of the narrative.

In terms of character, the man is probably the most patient character I’ve ever come across. Even though post-apocalyptic America throws its hurdles, he doesn’t blame anyone, he never takes out his anger and frustration on his son (except for an outburst once) and diligently carries on with his mission to keep his son alive.

His son, on the other hand, managed to annoy me at times. This may make me seem like a horrible, unsympathetic person – and I get that he’s only a kid! – but really. There are only so many times you can say: ‘I’m scared’. Obviously I understand that he only wants to keep his father safe but you can’t survive without taking risks. I think the child’s problem is that he is too good. The boy is simply too good to be living in a savage environment. He wants to share his food and supplies with everyone, even if they are a potential threat.

The ending offers a spiritual hug for a gaping wound. It is realistic and McCarthy had prepared his readers for it but deep down, I was always rooting for a different conclusion.

Definitely give this book a try if you are into dystopian fiction, it’s not too hard to see why The Road won two awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in 2007. 4/5*

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