The Road – Cormac McCarthy

Here i review McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel

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The Road is a post-apocalyptic 2006 novel by Cormac McCarthy. The story focuses upon a father and son who are travelling through a burnt out America, with their sights set on reaching the coast. The duo have nothing but the clothes on their back, a pistol with limited bullets and a small supply of food to keep them going along their journey. The novel sees the pair scavenging through the derelict, burned out towns and cities whilst trying to avoid running into ‘bad guys’ who stalk the roads.

In The Road we are presented with a truly disturbing and terrifying scenario. There are few people left in the world, and some of those left are savage beyond belief. We are not explicitly told what happened to cause such a brutal world, though I believe this leaves for a much more haunting story as so many scenarios could have led to the ultimate downfall of humanity. In all the savagery that we witness though, it is clear that this is a book that acutely portrays the best and the worst of mankind. From the unbreakable, trusting and loving relationship of the father and son to the ‘bad guys’ who we witness keeping prisoners for their cannibalistic needs. With this McCarthy offers us a magnitude of characters that portray how far humans can be pushed.

I finished The Road in two sittings, but if I had had the chance I am certain I would have finished the novel in one go. McCarthy writes with no chapters and allows his novel to flow with the progression of the father and sons travels. So, you find yourself turning page after page with no thought of having a break. Usually, I am all for chapters, and cannot comprehend a novel that does not use them. However, I felt this style was extremely effective for this novel and I truly felt that I was a participant in the journey across America. Not only that though McCarthy’s language and imagery creates some fantastic scenes, so it is difficult not to picture yourself alongside this family.

McCarthy created characters and a novel in The Road that kept you routing for a positive outcome. So much so, that it is so easy to forget that such a terrible situation has already been thrust upon the father and son. Like most, the ending of a novel is something I always battle with. I rarely find that the finishing pages of a novel end in a good or satisfactory way. On the one hand, with McCarthy’s novel, I feel exactly this way. I feel that McCarthy has left so much unsaid, and left me wanting so much more from this world and his characters. However, on the other hand, the journey has been completed, the goal has been met, and in the end we are given a positive outcome. So, it is difficult to argue that The Road ends on a bit of a flat line.

The Road is a novel unlike any others that I have read, and I am a little annoyed at myself for letting McCarthy’s novel sit on my bookshelf for as long as I did. So, I would recommend it to you all without a doubt. Although if you’re currently looking for a light read, something to relax by the pool with on holiday, maybe try something a bit lighter than McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel.

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The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

Like a good classic? Why not check out the 19th century novel from Oscar Wilde

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The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of Oscar Wilde’s only novels. It is a gothic novel which follows the character of Dorian Gray and his demise after he sells his soul to the devil for beauty. Written in 1890, this novel is an interesting read as it was used as evidence during Wilde’s trial for gross indecency and relations with another man. At the time it was claimed that Wilde’s work emulated his own feelings in regards to homosexuality. Wilde even went on to add a prologue, which argues against the idea that his novel demonstrates his homosexual feelings. He argued that art can be created for the sake of it, that often there are no deep meanings behind art; it is just there to be enjoyed.

Believe it or not, previous to my introduction to The Picture of Dorian Gray I have not had much experience with Wilde and his work. I personally struggle to connect with literature which is regarded as being ‘classic’. This may be because I have been continuously made to study them, and thus have found myself not enjoying them. However when I came across Wilde’s book I was pleasantly intrigued. I love a good gothic novel anyway, but the concept of selling ones soul for the sake of beauty was truly intriguing. I mean, I’m sure we all know somebody that would seriously consider this to stay young and beautiful forever, right?

The Picture of Dorian Gray is only a short novel, so I found myself getting through it quite quickly. This is helped by how well written and fluid Wilde’s work is. The speed that I got through it even had me questioning how it could be a 19th century novel. Though, that’s because of my personal experience with novels from this time period.

What I liked most about The Picture of Dorian Gray though was the character of Dorian himself. I loved how over such a short novel we saw such a progression in his character. The novel is set out over the course of many years, and in this time Dorian goes from a very well respected young man to a soulless murderous villain. And for me, this was exciting to read, to discover how far somebody can fall when they have made the decisions that Dorian had made. It was interesting to read how his decisions over this time were haunting him both mentally and physically. Wilde certainly has you questioning some of the decisions you go on to make after reading this novel.

I lack any negative comments regarding this book, though this may be because of how happy I am to have found a ‘classic’ that I love. I definitely think this Wilde’s novel is worth a read, whether you like the classics or not. It is a novel that leaves you reflecting on numerous themes, such as beauty, youth and greed. And, any novel that keeps you thinking and reflecting on what has been discussed is definitely a book worth reading.

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The Bazaar of Bad Dreams – Stephen King

Looking for a collection of short stories? Here I review one of Stephen Kings collections

the_bazaar_of_bad_dreams_stephen_kingThe Bazaar of Bad Dreams is a collection of short stories by Stephen King. This is his sixth published collection of short stories. Some of the stories included in the collection however have been printed or have been previously available online. For example Blockade Billy can be found published alone and Mile 51 and Ur have been available on Kindle. Although this is the case, in an author’s note at the beginning of the publication King writes ‘some of these stories have been previously published, but that doesn’t mean they were done then’. Thus, as readers we are given the understanding that there could be changes and improvements to the stories, that they should not be overlooked.

Although I am nowhere near an expert in King’s work, and have only ready a small number of his publications, I am a fan of his. Therefore, when I came across this publication of short stories, I did not hesitate to purchase it. I do not often read short stories however at a time when I was not ready to commit to a full length novel I thought The Bazaar of Bad Dreams would be perfect. This was because I figured that short stories would be a low commitment. However, upon reading the first couple of stories I could not put the book down. I found each story was so well written, engaging and gripping that I did not want to cease reading them. Understandably, I do have favourites in the collection. These being, Ur, The Little Green God of Agony, and Obits. Although these are three stories which are extremely different, all three presented a different reality. Ur, presenting a story about alternative realities, The Little Green God of Agony, a story displaying an exorcism type event and Obits about a columnist who can kill people by writing their obituaries. These were three concepts which intrigued me the most and found that I could not pause from reading. From these three stories alone, you can see just how diverse this collection of King’s work is.

The diversity in this collection is something which thoroughly surprised me. As somebody who thinks of Stephen King and only pictures horror, I have been pleasantly surprised. I have been introduced to new sides of King, sides that I did not know existed. Thus, I am more inclined to delve further into his many literary works and discover how much more King can surprise and challenge my initial perceptions of him and his writing.

Alongside each story, King offers up an intimate author’s note which introduces each tale to the reader. This is something I have not yet come across and thus makes each short story more unique and personal. As we discover where the idea for the story stemmed from and why King felt the need to write the following story. This draws us, as readers, closer to the author, enabling us understanding of the mindset and the feelings King had whilst writing the stories. Something which is so rarely done with the literature we read.

Out of the publications I have read recently The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is one of my favourites. It is perfect for those who do not wish to commit to a full-length novel, for those who are die hard King fans and those who may not have read King’s work before. The amount of diversity King offers us as a reader means that there is something for everyone. And I would highly recommend you find your ‘bad dream’.

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