on 15 April 2010
I've never before felt compelled to write a review about anything on these pages before, although I often browse other peoples.
Having read and enjoyed to varying extents The Road, The Border Trilogy and Blood Meridian, I already knew enough of McCarthy's writing to presume I would find something to like in Suttree. After 100 pages I gave up. The style is dense and hallucinogenic and I am not afraid to admit that I found myself reaching for a dictionary on a number of occasions (often more than once before I was able to escape to the next page).
A few weeks later, sure that I would regret not finishing the novel, I returned to it again; I shall be forever thankful that I did. In my mind this novel sits alongside the greatest works ever written. A magnificent rumination on love, loss, life and death, and one of the most compelling studies of masculinity I have ever encountered, I urge anyone who enjoys McCarthy's work to add this to their basket.
It isn't easy, but you won't regret it.
on 2 January 2011
Cornelius Suttree lives on the margins of society both physically and economically. This is a large book with a raft of eccentric down and outs with whom it is easy to empathise. Because of the author's relatively recent fame he is now prey to all sorts of criticisms from people who don't like his style. He does have a very distinctive, almost biblical, style, but not liking it is not a valid reason for criticism (I hated Madame Bovary the character, but I enjoyed the book). If you are familiar with CM then you can buy with absolute confidence. If not, you might want to think about "All the Pretty Horses" as a shorter entry to this fantastic writer.
on 5 September 2011
Classy. Need a dictionary with you for this one. I'm quite well read but needed to look up some of the words. Speech punctuation goes out of the window, which adds to the flavour.
on 24 April 2011
A magnificent novel. Not an 'easy read' - McCarthy never is - and it takes a while to settle in to his pyrotechnical prose. But I urge you to throw away the dictionary and persevere. The rewards are multitude. Think Faulkner, Carson McCullers, Dylan Thomas - then ratchet up the volume. But what next to read? Nothing can compete with this mindblowing evocation of time and place and this cast of outlandish, eccentric, yet totally believable characters.
on 16 February 2013
Perfect condition. Delivered well on time.
Ive read that this book took McCarthy 20 years to write. I can believe it - a classic of the kind of story where it takes 50+ pages to get involved but then you cant escape...just like his characters. Unbelievable sense of place. His description of the main characters wanderings through snow filled mountains was hallucinatory and will stay with me for ever. Buy it.
on 9 August 2011
Another amazing book, just as captivating and riveting as any other book by McCarthy. This is a lot longer that his other books, at 568 pages but somehow you will still finish it quicker than most other books. If you are a McCarthy virgin i would recommend starting elsewhere, as this is not the one to see if you like his style.
The synopsis tells you all you need to know, just buy it and read it.
'Suttree' is the not the first book by Cormac McCarthy that I have read and it will not be the last.
As with his other earlier novels 'Suttree' is essentially a story about the hurdles that have to be negotiated by the portrayed characters as their lives progress; in this case the main character is Cornelius Suttree, a vagrant living alone in poverty on a houseboat on the Tennessee River who survives mainly on the income he derives from selling the fish he catches.
The writing of McCarthy rarely involves a complicated plot and 'Suttree' is no exception; we do nothing more (and that is not meant to be a criticism) than follow the struggles and situations that befall this character and meet people that he crosses paths with (which include long-term 'friends', the occasional relative, people he trades or works with and those he attempts to have a deeper relationship with....).
For me to reveal any more detail of the story would be unfair to a first-time reader. However, to help people decide on whether this story might be to their taste I would say the main themes are friendship, domestic survival and family relationships (in that order), with the odd dash of drunken violence thrown-in. There is occasionally some bad language but the violence is not extreme...
Whilst this overall premise may seem unattractive as the basis of a novel, it is the poetic and emotional nature of McCarthys writing which compels you to follow the journey. Quite how one can read, for example, page after page of apparently benign conversation between characters without getting bored or feeling uninterested I cannot easily explain, but McCarthy manages to achieve it. For my part, the attraction is more often than not because I grow to feel an affection for the characters and an interest in their lives and fate.
A significant additional attraction are the frequent exchanges, comments and discussions between the characters which, for the most part, are of a nature that the reader will not have been exposed to before with other authors. At first the language might seem bizarre or coarse, but it is (in my opinion) often unique, hilarious and fascinating. McCarthy makes no effort to simplify what characters say; you get the text as they would say it, truncated, slang, foreign language - warts and all !
Regarding the style of writing: His trait of describing an environment with what appear to be bizarre comparison techniques entices you to try and visualise the scene and makes reading the text even more addictive. It is surprising how brief his descriptions of people and surroundings can be, yet he has the ability to convince the reader that they have achieved an accurate 'vision', because he employs an extremely wide vocabulary and those blunt comparative phrases. The trademark absence of punctuation and speech marks, and regular use of extremely long sentences, may well deter some from committing themselves to reading the novel - but that is their loss.
A noteworthy feature of this novel is the 3-page introduction, which is a stunning compilation of descriptive paragraphs with no explanation as to their significance with what is to follow....
'Suttree' is a rich and vivid tale, which is regularly traumatic but just as often entertaining and wryly funny. Like his other novels, it has the ability to invoke deep emotions and long-lasting memories which will make your skin tingle.
on 16 January 2016
A truly spellbinding read. So gritty, graphic and hyper-real. As usual, McCarthy holds a magnifying glass to the low points of existential strife of the period.
I read this after reading the alarming Blood Meridian, and yet I was not disappointed, having undertaken the (surely impossible) task of following that staggering story. In my opinion these two McCarthy books MUST be read, even if you read no other books from this incredible story teller. I really don't want to be associating 'blockbuster movie' with my chosen gripping read of the moment.
For the record I have read a good few of McCarthy's books, steering clear of The Road, simply on the basis of having seen the film, which would colour the story too much for me.
I am long in the tooth and I have read greedily, drawing from a very broad canvass for many years. I have to say that McCarthy is among my favourite two or three authors. The man's imagery is awe inspiring, and he makes your imagination work overtime.
on 22 November 2008
Cormac McCarthy has carved a solitary path on the literary map with Suttree, in my opinion he is one of the worlds best novelists, he is certainly inimitable. His prose bristles with poetry and his dialogue is often hilarious. It is the imagery from the gang raped whore in an abandoned car to the murky flow of the river through an at times woeful Knoxville that realy stays with you, the prose stings and sears and underlying it all is a great mind thinking and contemplating the barren and the beautiful, the meaning and the essence of life and death.
on 1 January 2013
Make no mistake about it, this is a difficult novel - the language is convoluted and obscure, even by McCarthy's standards; and yet every word is exactly the right word. The plot doesn't particularly matter, although there are incidents galore - many of them hysterically funny. Who would have thought that the author of Blood Meridian could do a good fart gag? Beautiful, funny, tragic (of course, it's a McCarthy novel, after all), but no without some shreds of hope amid the despair, this is simply one of my favourite novels. I understand why you might hurl it aside after a few chapters, but please, please, persist until the end - you won't regret it..