No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy

A working class American guy stumbles across the aftermath of a drugs deal gone bad, and finds a stack of money which he takes for himself. Unfortunately there are quite a few other people who are coming after the money, including the sinister Anton Chigurh.

Each chapter of the book has a section narrated by Sheriff Ed Tom Bell which is followed by a third person narrative that advances the plot. The Sheriff is approaching retirement and seems weary and bewildered at the type and amount of crime that he's seeing: he's ready to abandon the fight against it.

The problem with this book is that the film (which I saw twice) is rather too faithful an adaption: it follows the book almost scene for scene (at least to start with). The writing is very good, but I was struck by the way that it seemed a lot more powerful when the book deviated slightly from the film: not knowing exactly what was going to happen made the experience a lot more powerful.

The Sheriff had some good lines (many of which appeared word for word in the film). One I thought was impressive was when he was discussing Chigurh with his deputy, who described him as a lunatic. He's not a lunatic, said the sheriff. Well, what is he then? asked the deputy. I was expecting a clever, spot-on description, but the sheriff said, after a pause, I don't know what to call him.

In fact in some ways I think the film improved on the book: specifically, while the book didn't exactly tie up all the loose ends, things were slightly more resolved than in the film, and I think the lack of resolution fitted better with the overall feel of the book.

I'll read more by Cormac McCarthy.

Completed : 11-Jul-2008 (audiobook)

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