The Road by Cormac McCarthy Review

Here's my fawning review of The Road by Cormac McCarthy

the road cormac mccarthy novel picture book
Despite this book being fawned over by Oprah Winfrey and her book club, I must say this is one of the most entertaining reads I've had in a while.

It's horrific.

It's hungry.

It's human.

It's also on Amazon.

The story is set in an unknown time of an unexplained post-apocalyptic event. A great fire has scorched the earth along the road on which a tired father and his son travel seeking warmer climes.

Forget the story for a moment and read the writing - it is pure literary porn. This line is from the first page of The Road and just by itself it conjures up a bleakness that no winter frost could ever predict:

"Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world"

This sentence just sets the tone of the novel perfectly.

Note the glaucoma line should probably have a comma. Cormac McCarthy only uses full stops, question marks and the odd apostrophe for punctuation. He's a real Charles Dickens. This lacking only serves to highlight the bareness of the travellers' path.

At its heart, The Road is a story of an endearingly protective father who guards his son's life with his own. This is not Finding Nemo but is a broken road through hell where the sharks are men who think nothing of eating human flesh, in fact in McCarthy's world these men harvest the arms and legs of their captives, while the captives are still alive.

It is literally day-to-day living.

The story is savage enough but this book didn't with the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2007 for nothing (The Color Purple or To Kill A Mocking Bird are past winners) .

It would not be wrong to imagine that this is what's left of the earth after the monsters found in The Book of Revelations have passed through.

Frankly, after reading this novel Jesus would have wept more than the time Judas betrayed him.

Not that Jesus could read English, mind you.

Unsurprisingly The Road was being made into a film by John Hill Coat and starred Viggo Mortenson and Charlize Theron (as the mother in quite depressing flashbacks - contrast with Imperator Furiosa as a feminist icon). 

When I was 13 I read Z for Zacharia, a children's book about a young female teenager trapped in a valley safe from a nuclear wasteland but who was being tormented by Mr Loomis.

That story has always remained in my memory with its near rape and always pending doom - The Road replaces that for me and I doubt I'll be able to eat meat from a spit roast in a while.

Buy The Road from Amazon now. Don't watch the movie instead. Read the book!


His Whoreness said...

I nejoyed the vegetation becoming dust at the merest touch, the relentlessness of it all, and the turn of phrase - I could have done without the people in the basement, the baby in the woods and the inability to eat meat for a few days

Anonymous said...

My "Sci Fi" book group just finished this book, and I can't even begin to tell you what unnerving, almost cult-like love there is for this absolutely worthless piece of crap. Only my friend and I saw it for the schmaltzy cliche it was. The emperor had no clothes, but boy did they look like high fashion. The only reason I came away with that people love it is that it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about how the father will do anything for the son to make sure he survives. But the writing style is horrible and full of devices obviously meant to make it seem unique (no punctuation, sentences that make no sense, switching from first to third person) but NO MEAT WHATSOEVER to the story. And of the only two notable points of conflict, the message is: let people be hacked to death and slowly eaten while being kept alive for food, and you're ok; but hunt down a thief who takes the last bit of your food, ALL of it, to teach him a lesson, then you're a monster of the highest degree. This book boils down to one horrible message. As long as you take care of you and yours, you're a good person, but the rest of society, to hell with them. Worst book ever. Literally has put me off books for a while.

His Whoreness said...

and thank you for sharing

Anonymous said...

the fuss about the novel is not the story. I could write a post apocalyptic yarn about The Fraggles eating Doozers and it would only be awesome if it had:

excellent prose
sense of dread
questioning morals

was a fucking great read

and that's what this book is, a fucking great read. perhaps the sci fi book club should go back to reading Dune pt 17 or whatever the number is at these days.

Anonymous said...

and another thing

I bet the comment writer hated the Da Vinvi Code and thinks Stephen King shoudl be shot for crimes agaisnt literature too.

His Whoreness said...

Stephen King has become irrelevant in the modern era so I don't know that I could care less what happened to him

Dan Brown on the other hand is an author that deserves a messy lynching for crimes against literature, and crimes against reading - his books are, put simply, an abomination

Anonymous said...

you consider a book with characters that we don't even care enough to give names to, and cliche mad-max like gangs a "great read"?! wtf!

Anonymous said...

The book was about the break-down of society and yes, what we will do to protect our own. Look around, watch the news,read the newspaper. Women and children are being raped and beaten everyday.

This book is all ready happening but in smaller doses. The characters don't have names stupid b\c they represent every man or every man who has a soul.

Rogan Josh said...

I love how anonymous makes about the characters not having names but... doesn't leave their own.

Anonymous said...

Z for Zacharia - did you go to Cambridge High too?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

My name doesn't matter because IM NOT A PROTAGONIST IN A BOOK! A protagonist, however, you should care bout; you know, to add, what do they call it....INTEREST to the story. You don't have to care about me. I'm just enjoying how you Cormac trekkies defend him. I expect a knock at the door from y'all any day with the Cormac watchtower in hand.

Jimmy Jangles said...

I love people that kant spell there name right making such grande latte comments. go back to star bucks.

B. Diederich said...

I read this book right before Christmas totally unaware of all the fanfare...I had to finish it in one setting, but when done, by response was merely "eh."
However, I awoke in the night clutched in the most godawful cold-sweat; vivid imagination; complete horror over that basement scene, and haven't been able to get parts out of my mind since, so apparently the author has left an impression!

RC said...

i've thought about reading this and your entuisiasm encourages me...i especially want to read it before the film version comes out.

tragic_candy said...

I cannot understand the hate over this book. McCarthy and Salinger, through the depth of their story lines yet simplicity of their prose, have defined American writing over the last fifty years. 'The Road' and 'Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters' are among the best examples of American writing since Faulkner and Hemingway.

Also, I cannot understand this idea about misogyny in McCarthy's writing. Granted, 'Child of God' was a very dark work about a very dark person, but it was hardly supported the actions of the character. In 'The Road', both parents are treated favorably as far as their love for their child. The mother wants to save him from a live of desperation and misery, and feels guilt at the thought of killing her own kid, while the father is entirely focused on survival. The portrayals are fair and, in my opinion, the whole point of the story is contained in the last page of the book.