Paperback, 351 pages.
Read from July 14 to August 06, 2015.
I wanted to like this book, I really did. I was excited to read this book as I had never read anything by McCarthy prior to this. I had heard so many great things about him so I’m a bit disappointed I didn’t enjoy this book more. I haven’t given up on McCarthy yet though! I will read The Road, his most notorious publication before I make my final opinion on him.
The book takes place around the Texan and Mexican border in the US during the 1850’s. The book follows a runaway teenage boy, known only as, the kid and after getting arrested in Mexico he is acquainted with some men and works his way into joining their gang in order to get out of prison. The gang is a depiction of the historically notorious Glanton gang, who hunt for the scalps of Native American’s for profit and pleasure. After terrorizing and taking scalps the gang comes up with an idea to rob a bank, which ultimately doesn’t go well. Wounded and taking heavy losses, the remaining gang works their way through the desert where tensions within the group begin to show themselves.
I did appreciate McCarthy’s style, or lack there of in a way. McCarthy is one of the few authors that can get away without using practically any punctuation. This lack of punctuation worked really with the characters and their Texan slang but as a reader, you’re left to determine who is speaking because McCarthy never uses quotation marks. I definitely had to re-read a few pages just to follow some conversations. McCarthy also uses a substantial amount of Spanish, which he did not translate. So if you’re not familiar with Spanish, you’ll most likely have to do some translations yourself to understand what’s going on. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever looked up so many words in the dictionary before. McCarthy is a well-versed man.
I felt the most interesting parts of the book were all about the kid’s rough childhood. After he joined up with the group of men to start scalping native heads, is where I started to lose interest. Not because the book lacked for violence or because the characters were uninteresting but because I couldn’t keep track of the plot. The scenes all seemed to resemble each other in that the group of men would scalp some heads, get in trouble with the natives or the locals, then meet some new people during their journey’s through the desert and as a result a lot of people died. I know that I was guilty of skimming a few pages out of frustration with this strange plot.
I wish that this novel was more focused on the inner workings of the kid rather than the intricacies of the plot and its philosophies. This approach would make the book more pleasurable to read but it would also take away some of its ingenuity. I would recommend this book to those who are familiar with the history of the US at this time and for those who are familiar with McCarthy’s work.