- Senigallia, Italy - Being still a beginner in literary review, I’ve felt a little awkward while starting to read this book. I thought I was supposed to love it, because who am I to disagree with the Pulitzer Prize Committee? Still, I wanted to feel free to judge it, as I do with any other book that I happen to buy and read. I wanted to feel free to love it because of something more than awards, and to eventually bring that out while writing about it.
I used to be an avid review reader in the past – reviews helped me pick a book over another one when I was approaching literature for the first time since there seemed to be too many books out there to choose from. Then I started reading opinions, people’s opinions, and I found them way more helpful, and now I don’t read reviews anymore. It feels like you’re reading about two different books, when you compare a review and a reader’s opinion.
Why am I telling you this, when you thought you’d already be halfway through my review? Because if you’re looking for a review, maybe you shouldn’t continue reading. I don’t think that’s the way people should talk about books, and I don’t think books are actually written for reviewers. I’ve warned you.
The first thing I thought after the first few pages was ‘I see why he chose this title’ – which may seem like a silly thought, but it really isn’t. You don’t usually question how appropriate a title is, but here, it just couldn’t be any other one. The road is everything there is left, everything that matters for these two people – a man and a boy, a father and a son, but at the same time two men and two boys. The post-apocalyptic scenario, which may attract numerous readers, doesn’t really take part in the story. We don’t know what happened or why, and after a few pages we stop caring. The whole story is the road, and we don’t only get it from the plot: the narration tells it. Brief sentences, brief paragraphs. No chapters. Like the road these two people are walking through – small steps, small pauses to rest, and nothing really changing from one day to the other.
What really makes the difference between McCarthy’s book and all the others written on the same concept – ‘I Am Legend’, for example – is perspective, that is, what happens inside people because of what happened outside. This is the only perspective that actually matters for me, since I couldn’t care less about zombies, homicides and the science involved in such phenomena. If you stop while reading a book because something made you think, if you finish it and feel like you’ve learned something, that’s when a book’s worth reading, and this one really, really is. Because it’s so fictional that it couldn’t be more connected to the present.
During their journey, the boy keeps asking his father if they’re the good ones. If they’re still the good ones. When they’re almost starving, he wants to make sure they’re not going to eat dogs. Or people. Why is that? Why, when they could have killed themselves easily, but chose not to, and in a moment when surviving is a struggle, do they still have such priorities? Because of an ethic. The ethic strictly connected to our existence that doesn’t submit itself to survival, no matter how hard situations may be.
Still, there are cannibals. There are people ready to do anything in order to survive, which may lead us to question the relativity of such an ethic. This is when the book connects to our present – to any past and present, to be more specific. There are people ready to step over their ethics at any stage of human existence, in the most varied of situations. We should all ask ourselves how strong our ethics are to us – but of course, this is just a review.
Here is the big difference I was talking about. Why wasn’t this ethic the main concern for other writers? Other books need major twists in the plot or need blood, and here we have a 200-page book where, basically, nothing ever happens, and it strikes people – regardless of all the awards. I hope it strikes you as well.
Rating: 5/5 Sour Grapes