Top critical review
An American Tradition - The Road
Reviewed in Australia on 15 October 2021
The road has mythic status in American literature beginning with the Oregon Trail and moving through each generation's incarnations. Towles' book leans heavily on the tradition and has Towles' trademark fascination with style which gives the book both its strengths and weaknesses. Strength - nothing can dent the ease of the prose and the movement of the narrative but its weaknesses are its obvious indebtedness to Steinbeck, Charles Portis and the Coen brothers. The picaresque form demands a virtuous protagonist but Emmet is perhaps a little too good. I found it didn't reach the heights of A Gentleman in Moscow and Duchess began to irritate long before the end. Perhaps that's intentional. Even so it irked this reader and the holy innocent Wooly just made me want to slap him.
Aside from the preciousness of some characters one minor fault began to grate on me like sand in a sneaker - the author's reliance of a blow to the head "'.. and then everything went dark.... when he awoke...' to advance the narrative. I don't care if it's meant to be a trope or simply lazy writing but the amateur neurologist in me began counting the blows and wondering why at least one of the bodies slumping to the ground wasn't permanently brain damaged or dead. Hitting somebody on the head with a shovel doesn't give a convenient brief coma. It kills them and leaves them looking like a frog.
Aside from these caveats I enjoyed the book but my heart belongs back in Moscow.