Sunday, July 12, 2009

Five best novels about arduous journeys

Rose Tremain’s novels include ­Music and Silence and The ­Colour. Her most recent work, The Road Home, has just been released in paperback.

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best list of novels about arduous journeys.

One book on the list:
The Crossing
By Cormac McCarthy
Knopf, 1994

Cormac McCarthy is ­America’s greatest contemporary poet of the wild. His fictional journeys have strange beginnings and desolate endings, confirming man’s smallness in a world where “God sits and conspires in the destruction of what he has been at such pains to ­create,” as McCarthy writes in “The Crossing.” Here, 16-year-old Billy ­Parham, son of a rancher, rescues a she-wolf from a trap one winter’s morning and decides to light out from home, dragging the wolf behind his horse across the border into Mexico. Billy’s intention is to release the wolf into the inaccessible mountains from which she strayed, but by crossing a geographical and temporal border, he enters a world of anarchy and violence. Piece by inevitable piece, he is stripped of everything that gives his life ­sustenance and meaning. Billy’s ­courage in the face of pain, loss, ­hunger and bereavement, no less than his unsentimental understanding of the lives of animals, makes him a ­remarkable and timeless hero. This heroism is, in its turn, heroically served by McCarthy’s dark unraveling ­sentences that gather like storm clouds and break in freakish thunder.
Read about the other four books on Tremain's list.

Also see Hugh Thomson's top ten books of South American journeys, Dava Sobel's five best list of books which "record extraordinary journeys of discovery," and Rory Stewart's six favorite travel books.

--Marshal Zeringue