The Road (Cormac McCarthy)

Mrs K Tomlin has read and enjoyed this book enormously.  Here, she shares her views of the book, following a collection of reviews of it taken from Neilsen Book (publisher of  The Bookseller magazine):

‘The first great masterpiece of the globally warmed generation. Here is an American classic which, at a stroke, makes McCarthy a contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature’ – Andrew O’Hagan.  ‘McCarthy conjures from this pitiless flight the miracle of unswerving humanity. Gripping beyond belief’ – Chris Cleave, “Sunday Telegraph”. ‘One of the most shocking and harrowing but ultimately redemptive books I have read. It is an intensely intimate story. It is also a warning’ – Kirsty Wark, “Observer Books of the Year”. ‘A work of such terrible beauty that you will struggle to look away. It will knock the breath from your lungs’ – Tom Gatti, “The Times”. ‘You will read on, absolutely convinced, thrilled, mesmerized. All the modern novel can do is done here’ – Alan Warner, “Guardian”. ‘A masterpiece that will soon be considered a classic’ – “Herald”. ‘McCarthy shows that he is one of the greatest American writers alive’ – “Times Literary Supplement”.

Mrs Tomlin says:

“‘The Road’ is a compelling read that I found moving in many ways. I didn’t want to put it down but at the same time was desperate for it to reach some conclusion – but also feared that conclusion. I am ambivalent about the upcoming film: the haunting and gripping dystopic world will adapt well to the screen but some of the moments of great tension (what IS in that abandoned house?) will work better for someone who has not read the book. Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee will need to convey acute intimacy and carry the film and have in same way Will Smith carried the film adaptation of ‘I Am Legend’. I hope they’re up to it but I may not able to go through their traumas with them. Once was enough!”

The film came out on 8 January 2010 here in the UK and a review from Time Out London follows:

“When Cormac McCarthy’s brutal saga of post-apocalyptic angst won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007, a big screen adaptation became inevitable. Whether or not this was a good idea seemed irrelevant: it was a bestselling book with a timely, inherently cinematic theme; the movie had to be made.

‘The Proposition’ director John Hillcoat’s film is as direct and unflinching an adaptation as one could reasonably hope for. A man (Viggo Mortensen) and a boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) wander the American wasteland after an unnamed ecological disaster. The trees are bare, the animals dead, the few human survivors starving, desperate, often violent, occasionally monstrous.‘The Road’ is certainly the bleakest and potentially the least commercial product in recent Hollywood history. Both book and movie suffer from the same inherent weakness – they exist purely to make you miserable. Sure, there’s a smattering of subtext – a little eco-politics here, a spot of family psychology there – but the central purpose is to break your heart and shatter your soul.

On which level, Hillcoat’s movie is a resounding triumph. Stunning landscape photography sets the melancholy mood, and Nick Cave’s wrenching score reinforces it. But it is the performances that ultimately hold the film together. We expect this kind of selfless professionalism from Mortensen, and McPhee is appropriately sad-eyed as his long-suffering son, but it’s the incidental characters who steal the show, notably Robert Duvall in a startling cameo which not only distils the film’s key themes into a single three-minute scene, but singlehandedly lifts a potentially drab affair into something quietly impressive. Just don’t expect to walk out smiling…”

Does this make you want to read the book or see the film?  Sounds like a fascinating read to me!  When you have read or seen  it, please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments here…

Just in:  a new review of the book by Ms Asfar:

“If, like me, you are struggling with SAD(seasonally adjusted disorder), and yearning to be in warmer and sunnier climates, you may feel a tad apprehensive about reading The Road, by Cormac McCarthy.  This is a tale set in post-apocalyptic America.  A catastrophic event has all but decimated life on earth.  What remains is a ravaged, desolate landscape.    You can picture the unnamed man leading his innocent son through the burnt remains, searching for morsels of food whilst being stalked by cannibals.  The weary man must lead his son to the coast where they may be safe.  However, the journey exposes the brutish and anomic world that they exist in.  Bordering on starvation and exposed to the punishing elements, all they have is a pistol with two bullets for protection.  Now this may seem like a grim and relentless tale and McCarthy skillfully creates these powerful and haunting images, he is also able to draw out emotions of warmth, love and hope out of the despair.  The road is a beautifully written story about a father’s love and adoration for his son.  It gives hope when there may be none and inspires us to have faith, where giving up would be both rational and understandable.  It is a heart warming tale of humanity rising from the ashes of despair.  In a cold and desolate world, where inhumanity and barbarism prevail, a father’s love for his son gives him the strength to go on.  A gripping read.”


Author: Berkhamsted School Library

Main aims for Berkhamsted School Library • to provide a central resource for the whole school curriculum • to encourage an ethos of enquiry and discovery • to assist pupils in becoming confident and independent learners • to develop research and information skills throughout the school • to offer resources which enrich cultural values and experiences for pupils, as well as have a role in their recreational life and promote reading for pleasure as a lifelong activity

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