On the Bright Road Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of On the Bright Road

Intensly dense and full of descriptions of nature and self, this book studies a dying man from the point of view of the dying man. The book narrates the man's attempt to reach the past. Cathal Kerr begins his journey by trying to figure out how he wants to spend his last days. After learning he has a terminal disease, he runs away from "cash and nooky land", leaving his wife so he can live alone in their summer cottage among the back woods in Wales. Here he becomes obsessed with trying to penetrate time and enter a land dominated by King Arthur's sixth century Celtic war against the invading Anglo and Saxon tribes.
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The narrative structure shifts between Cathal's introspective or sometimes physical journey into the past and the past itself. Cathal's tenuous connection to prehistoric time is a tracker who's caer (a welsh fortified village) once lay near where Cathal's cottage would later be built. The tracker lives just before the battle of Camlan when King Arthur dies. And as such, his life as well as the life of his kingship has been overwhelmed with the political will of Arthur. The tracker and his King even go to the lake to find the sword for Arthur's last battle.

Cathal touches the past at various points during the book. He and the Tracker contact each other upon an old Roman road that runs near Cathal's retreat and the tracker's Iron-age village. They fight inside the ruins of the Tracker's hill fort. The book ends with Cathal trying to penetrate the time barrier one last time. But the book is about the journey rather than the destination. And the journey is hard on Cathal's health as he wastes away under his obsession.
The review of this Book prepared by Kevin Tolley

Chapter Analysis of On the Bright Road

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 50%Descript. of society, phenomena (tech), places 50% Tone of book    -   sensitive (sigh....) FANTASY or SCIENCE FICTION?    -   King Arthur Time Travel:    -   largely backwards/past Inner Struggle    -   Yes Plotlet:    -   fighting a personal illness/handicap Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Time Travel story?    -   Yes

Main Character

Identity:    -   Male Profession/status:    -   unemployed Age:    -   40's-50's Really unusual traits?    -   Mentally ill or deluded


Terrain    -   Forests Earth setting:    -   20th century Takes place on Earth?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   generic/vague references to death/punishment scientific jargon? (SF only)    -   none/very little science jargon needed How much dialogue?    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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N.P. Figgis Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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