James Tait Black Memorial Prize Winner 2006 / Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2007

Accolades galore from the blogosphere – named in several 2007 top 10’s.

Acclaimed as “the most important enivironmental book ever” – George Monbiot, British environmental campaigner, who also wrote at greater length in the Guardian of 30.10.2007: “A few weeks ago I read what I believe is the most important environmental book ever written. It is not Silent Spring, Small Is Beautiful or even Walden. It contains no graphs, no tables, no facts, figures, warnings, predictions or even arguments. Nor does it carry a single dreary sentence, which, sadly, distinguishes it from most environmental literature. It is a novel, first published a year ago, and it will change the way you see the world.”

What can I possibly add?  Apart from I agree.  Putting aside the picture of the polar bear on the melting ice to one side (because it wasn’t exactly what it seemed, was it?)  …  The Road packs a more powerful punch  than Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” for a number of reasons: 1) It’s a work of the imagination – noone can dispute its findings 2) the consequence of the catastrophe (unnamed but definitely man-made) is brought down to the most fundamental human level – the survival of a father and his young son as they struggle to find “the good guys” in a post-apocalyptic landscape 3) the protective love of the parent is understated but permeates every single word, action and self-sacrifice 4) the depth of the father’s despair and his anger at his god is complex, real and understandable (provided you accept that God is to blame for man-made disasters …) 5) the message that you must never give up, no matter what.

What took me so long to travel this way? Offputting comments regarding the violence and the cannibalism.  Yet I think there are but a handful of explicitly awful scenes – oh, they’re bad and they are images burnt everlastingly on my memory but they are written with such control that I watch with awe.  However, the vast majority of the novel feeds off the threat of meeting “the bad guys”.  This adds a level of suspense that is, in places, palpable and almost unbearable.

Just as well then that I listened to the unabridged audio in 30 minute chunks.  This was enough to realise that the simple, sparse prose is deceptive.  Biblical references, Shakespearian references abound.  The simple language of oral tradition interwoven through repetition.  The downside of listening while driving is that I can’t quote details but I know that when I come to read The Road, and I will, my pen and pad will be on hand to take copious notes.

 A story deserving every accolade heaped upon it.   on first listening.  I suspect the fifth star will appear on reading. And that, as McCarthy’s characters would say, is OK.