Forty years after his first
novel, The Orchard Keeper, and seven
years after he completed his Border Trilogy
Cities of the Plain, McCarthy
returns with a modern-day western that hits
the mark with some reviewers and leaves
others cold - which, in fairness, has been
the case with most of his books over the
years. The main thread of the novel
follows young Vietnam vet Llewelyn Moss as
he runs to evade the ex-Special Forces
agent, Chigurh, employed by the cartel whose
money he's appropriated; but it's also the
story of aging lawman, Sheriff Bell (the
moral opposite of Chigurh), who is coming to
terms with the fact that there seems to be a
new breed of bad guy on the lose these days,
against which old style lawmen like himself
cannot compete. McCarthy allows
Sheriff Bell to offer up his homespun
thoughts on good and evil providing some
much needed relief to the blood and gore (but in some reviewers eyes, these observations pall with repetition). In addition to the three
main characters there are a few other minor
players but most of them seem to end up dead
before too long.
Most reviewers agree that No Country for Old Men is a "page-turner". They also agree that it's a simpler read than many of his previous books - but they disagree as to whether this is a good thing. The Washington Post reviewer feels that "McCarthy's language is stripped lean and mean here. In places, dialogue carries large sections of the story. His ear for speech, dialect and wordplay remains noteworthy in American letters. His descriptive passages are lucid and visual;" but the New York Times reviewer describes it as hokum and Library Journal conclude that it's a "made-for-television melodrama". Then again, Publishers Weekly conclude that it offers "a profound meditation on the battle between good and evil and the roles choice and chance plan in the shaping of a life", and Booklist gives it a starred review.
As always, you can decide for yourself by browsing a few pages at BookBrowse.
This review was originally published in August 2005, and has been updated for the July 2006 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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