I am not at all surprised that McCarthy's latest masterpiece made the final five short listed titles for the National Book Critic's Circle Award, (subsequently won by The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai).
Grim as the subject matter is - and various reviewers have called it post-Armageddonian, post-holocaustian, and post-apocalyptian - and believe me it is very bleak indeed, it is nevertheless a triumph of story telling and I simply could not put the book down. It is a comparatively quick read but if you start reading be prepared to write off several hours.
I'm not going to say too much more about it because it has had an astonishing amount of review coverage already including one by Elspeth Sandys in the Listener of February 10 where she suggested that someone ought to have given George Bush and Tony Blair a copy each for Christmas.
It is the story of a father and son fighting their way across a devastated landscape, one assumes it has been devastated by a nuclear event although this is not actually stated. They are heading south out of the mountains and towards the coast where they hope it will be warmer. They are hunting and hiding as they travel, scavenging for food amongst the ruined landscape, walking on the road by day and hiding well off it by night.
Hence the title of course, and what a cover, it captures the essence of the book perfectly.
For all its bleakness The Road is a remarkably poetic book, and it is a story that moved me and will stay with me a long time.
If you would like to learn more about McCarthy, and he is one of the truly great contemporary American authors, click here to go to the excellent Wikipedia entry on him.
Author photo by Derek Shapton for Newsweek.
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