Don’t read this book if you have a weak stomach, a faint heart or recoil at senseless violence.
This book has violence, war and evil at it’s core and to bring that to life, McCarthy shows us evil unleashed.
As so often in his books, McCarthy places his characters in anarchic circumstances to show the true nature of man when law and governance cease to control them. In The Road, that world was post-apocalyptic. In Blood Meridian it is the harsh and lawless landscape of the US Mexican border region from 1847 to 1861. We follow the life of a character known only as “the kid” who runs away at 14. We don’t know much about his motivation but we do know, that ” in him broods already a taste for mindless violence”
He joins a band of bounty hunters whose activities degenerate to massacre, robbery and rape (the leader Glanton, is based on an actual historical figure and many events in the book have their roots in history). They kill for money and for fun. And sometimes they kill for no obvious reason at all. It’s pretty grim.
The book is dominated by the character of Judge Holden, a larger than life character (who reminds me of Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now) whose philosophy is clear:
“Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaited its ultimate practitioner…It endures because young men love it and old men love it in them. THose that fought, those that did not.”
The violence in the book is not a means to an end. It does not cleanse or redeem. It is the essence of this world McCarthy has created. There are no good guys and bad guys, there are just the strong and the weak.
It’s a bloody ride. But one that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The writing in this book is absolutely sublime. Although at times, the plot drags, the descriptions of place and behaviour are poetic, moving and memorable.
4 Stars from me, but I mean it when I say this book is not for everybody!
Let me know if you’re read it and what you thought.
2/50 for The Classics Club