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The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Literary Fiction | Speculative Fiction

By Grace O'Reilly

Written by Cormac McCarthy, and published in September 2006 by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S, this post-apocalyptic tragedy fiction is set over the time span of just under a year.  Cormac was awarded the ‘James Tait Black Memorial Prize’ in fiction in 2006, as well as the ‘Believer Book Award’, as well as being a finalist for the ‘National Book Critics Circle Award’, for fiction.  The novel was awarded the 2007 ‘Pulitzer Prize’ for fiction and was shortlisted in 2012 for the ‘Best of the James Tait Black’.  The novel is extremely influential and while it has not been inexplicitly mentioned climate change it is on the ‘climate change list of books to read’ and has been quoted by George Monbiot, “the most important environmental book ever written” with regard to a world without a biosphere.

It was adapted into a film and screen written by Joe Penhall, and directed by John Hillcoat and starred Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee, showing for the first time to the public in November 2009.    The novel focuses on the day to day experiences and hardship that a father and his son have to endure in order to survive in their bleak world.  The world as we know it and theirs are polar extremes, is no more in this gruelling read.

There is little life left on the planet in all terms.  So many species and plant life have become extinct, and there are few humans left alive and in one piece.  Those still living have to fight for survival in heart-breaking circumstances.  Industrialised civilisation is a thing of the past.

They have nothing to them except a cart and a pistol.  At one stage they come across an old can of Coke and the boy is intrigued by this sweet fizzy drink.  A treat is no more, and others in the same boat have been driven to murder and cannibalism.  This book opens your eyes to ‘a whole new world’ and not a happy Disney fantasy world.

Cormac wrote this book with no chapters, and in some pages the short sentences, add to the novel’s bleakness.  An arty analysis could be that the sentences run short in some places as a symbolism to emphasise that ‘the man’ and ‘the boy’ have very little too.  Their names are never used, just the terms, ‘papa’ and ‘son’.  In the book we can see that despite their dire situation ‘the boy’ shows empathy and compassion for others, another little boy about the same age as he, an old man and a dog.

(c) Grace O’Reilly

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