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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 12 March 2017
I knew very little about Cormac Mcarthy prior to reading this book. I'm going through a phase of consuming post apocalyptic stories and after much deliberation I thought I'd give it try. I'm so glad I wasn't put off by some of the negative reviews. The Road is beautiful, thought provoking, compelling and life affirming. I hesitate to say it was a pleasure to read given the tone and subject matter but I recommend this book to anyone who is prepared to engage their brain and open their heart.

McCarthy's writing emotionally tied me to the characters without the usual writing conventions I'd expect, life doesn't necessarily provide us with nice neat answers or resolutions to things especially in this case where nothing is normal and will never be so again. Why worry about fripperies when all human life has been cleaved down to the barest essentials, the novel's style and prose reflects that in many ways. I was fully immersed in the story from the start, it's not a long book, it was easy to follow the various exchanges and the story flowed beautifully. But be warned it's emotionally draining and very bleak, it hurt my heart to read some of the passages, this truly frightening world McCarthy brought forth will live me for a long time.

Forget the whys and wherefores of how the earth reached this hellish state, that's honestly not important. The Road is basically a love story between a man and his son, McCarthy dedicates this book to his own little boy at the start and it's abidingly clear that the primary focus for the reader should be on this relationship and its development, it positively burns through the pages. Man and boy are nameless (as are most of the characters we meet) but it didn't lessen the power of his writing to convey the incredible depth of their love and reliance on each other.

What we do learn is that there was an apocalyptic event around the time of the boy's birth, its clear the effects were utterly devastating, life appears to have been extinguished save for a few pitiless souls left to walk the barren ash choked wasteland killing, stealing and scavenging for what's left of any canned/preserved food or worse resorting to cannibalism. They trudge day after day through a world that appears stripped of life, of colour and a future for humankind. The boy knows nothing of the time before the tragedy, living in constant fear, cold and hunger for him is normality for the father it's much worse, a desperate sadness at what has been lost that he is loathe to articulate, he remembers his old life in dreams and brief recollections and it's from these that we get further insights into the past with his wife and family.

The man is getting sicker by the day as they travel through the seemingly eternal grey, bleak, inhospitable, cold wasteland along a road. There is no sun, they are fighting constant starvation, the days are growing darker and colder as if heralding a nuclear style winter. They are moving south towards the coast as the father knows they can't survive another winter where they've been living. It's better for the father to have some goal to reach in order to hold on to his sanity and hope for the future and his son's well being so they keep on the move. Hope, humanity, goodness and faith are key here it's about "keeping the fire" as the father calls it, they are "the good guys" and his son demands reassurance of this fact at various stages and this sustains both of them despite the apparent desperateness of their situation.

The father is deeply mistrusting of anyone they meet with his fearsome desire to protect his child who he looks up to almost as a vessel of goodness in this hellish world. When certain incidents happen the boy gets very upset and begins to fear they are no longer the good guys, this schism reflects more on the general fear of any parent desperately wanting to equip their child with the tools for survival and independence but fighting the need to control and fiercely protect. To compound the issue, the father realises he's running out of time but equally the son carries the burden of knowing that soon he will be left alone to fend for himself, this forms an unbearable emotional strain between them.

The tenderness the father expresses towards his son was deeply moving, despite the sparseness of the dialogue between them, the father is only still alive because of his son who is equally dependent on him. His fear and anguish over the boy at key moments almost had me in tears, the future is left opaque and undecided, it may be hopeless it may not, the reader is left to surmise for themselves many things and that's how it should be. McCarthy's gift in his writing is to keenly show in a very painful and raw way how loving someone can be and that the strength found in that is sometimes enough to carrying on.

The rather stark, simple exchanges between father and son I found curiously moving and heartfelt and there are many touching little moments described. Also, the father is constantly tormented wondering if the time comes could he kill his child to spare him almost certain defilement. I can only imagine how much this story would resonate and especially if you're a parent. "You have my whole heart", the father says at one point, such simple honest beauty in that line!

The Road shows us the strength of love and how in our darkest moments it can bind and hold people together against extreme circumstances that should crush the human spirit. Yet some if us choose to go on even if in the end the universe makes our existence appear almost meaningless. I can see why this book won acclaim.
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In some ways a harrowing tale, but also one that does eventually show hope, as we follow a father and son across a post-apocalyptic landscape that is America. We are not told what caused this to happen, or indeed whether it is just something that has happened in the US, but you do get a feeling of desolation throughout the world, and only pocketfuls of humans remaining, although how long the average lifespan is we can only guess.

We know that the event was some time in the past and humanity has been devastated as we follow our two main characters throughout this story. Making their way south as winter sets in so not only do they have to find food and water to keep going on, along with other supplies, but also avoid other people, some of which do pop up in the tale. With people being killed so that they can be eaten, as well as so others can gain their supplies, this is definitely a dog eat dog world.

How will the father and son cope, and will they get to a warmer clime? As we read of their journey we can also read about their dreams and memories, and we see how two people travelling together have eventually only a minimum of verbal contact as everything has already been said before.

Cormac McCarthy with his stark prose has created something here that is certainly unforgettable and holds the reader gripped to the page. Beautifully told and imagined this is something that has a haunting elegance to it.
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on 5 June 2016
I actually came to Cormac Mccarthy's ' The Road ' after watching the film that was based on the book. Also I'm a big fan of the post apocalyptic setting.

The environment this book creates is fantastic. The bleakness if the world literally coming off the pages and it's easy to find yourself there. It's also easy to get drawn into the depression of it all and the hopeless situation encountered by the characters rubs off on the reader. It's tough going sometimes, but it's not without a sense of hope. The relationship between man and boy is amazingly done and considering the lack of any other characters ( apart from a few brief meetings ) it's credit to the writer to keep the whole thing interesting.

It's a fantastic journey through a bleak well imagined world. Although maybe not the happiest of tales it's a fascinating insight into a fathers love and determination to do whatever it takes to give his child some kind of life no matter how poverished. I will definitely seek out other titles by the author.
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on 9 July 2017
I was unsure whether I would enjoy this novel but decided to go ahead anyway. Tremendous stripped back descriptive style, at odds with the wordy need to give unwelcome context that seems endemic to many American writers.

Even though I sympathised with 'The Man' and engaged with what he must be agonising over every moment, it is certainly 'the boy' that is the barometer for mood, level of hope and the continuance of human spirit as humanity moves forward in the unwritten future after the book finishes.

I wholeheartedly recommend this novel on many levels - engagement with character, fear of what may happen at any moment, evocation of hopelessness, simplicity of style.
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on 17 July 2017
This book is interesting and shows how an apocalypse probably would really be like, so the story is believable. However I found the boy's whining irritating and at times the book was as dull as its setting. However, after reading it I saw the film. If you have seen the film and didn't think it too good, then read the book. I felt it was superior to the film.
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on 14 May 2015
I found this book difficult to put down. It's written in one complete narrative chronicling the journey of a nameless boy and a man. In some senses, not a lot happens, but that's not the point. The book explores the relationship between man and boy in the face of untold disasters. A very moving book.
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on 11 June 2017
This a brilliant book. No names, no explanation of what happened. One long chapter, captivating reading. I recommend the film also as it is a true reflection of the book. Excellent!
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on 26 April 2017
Bought after seeing the film and enjoyed as much as the film. Bleak and grey, excellent end of the world sombre mood. A great read.
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on 27 April 2017
I've re-read this many times since buying it. A thought provoking and poignant read.
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on 20 July 2017
A good book, if you've seen the film you should read the book.
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