2. The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006) 307 p.

This overwhelmingly bleak and depressing book by Cormac McCarthy won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize. It follows the story of a father and son travelling across the south-eastern United States many years after some cataclysmic disaster (implied to be a meteor strike that resulted in an impact winter). The trees are dead, fires have swept across the countryside, and clouds of grey ash blot out the sun. There is little food to be found, and most other humans they come into contact with are savage cannibals and rapists.

While it may rival Nevil Chute’s On The Beach for conveying a mood of utter despair, there are moments of lightness to be found; the father occasionally recalls happy memories from times before the strike, though he berates himself for doing so, and the resolution of the book is heartening. Similarly, although the nightmarish hellscape the pair travel through would appear to be devoid of any beauty, McCarthy still achieves a sad kind of poetic description. And the relationship between the father and son can be, at times, heart-wrenching. By far the best line of the book is when they finally arrive at the ocean, and as they stare at it, the father says,

“I’m sorry it’s not blue.”

Not like that, of course, since The Road doesn’t use quotation marks, which was one of two things that irked me. The other was that it got somewhat repetitive after a while; McCarthy probably could have cut 100 pages from this and had the same effect. But then, who am I to tell a Pulitzer-winner how to write?

Books: 2/50
Pages: 563