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The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard…
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The Narrow Road to the Deep North (2014)

by Richard Flanagan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,1051134,712 (4.08)2 / 326
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English (112)  Dutch (1)  All languages (113)
Showing 1-5 of 112 (next | show all)
Too much suffering and cruelty to bear. I stopped about 60% of the way through, unable to muster sufficient hope to keep going. I've got enough sadness and depression in my life. Do I need Mr Flanagan to contribute more?. ( )
  oldblack | Jan 1, 2019 |
I stopped reading serious fiction some years back and I only read "The narrow road to the deep north" because it was given to me by someone who obviously wanted to irritate me. In retrospect I should be grateful to them as "The narrow road to the deep north" is a great work and, I can say with great confidence, the best novel I will read in 2018.

The story of a Tasmanian named Dorrigo who becomes in turn a surgeon, a soldier, a POW during World War II and then a spokesperson for veterans in post-war Australia. And, to keep it racey, Dorrigo gets involved in a range of clandestine affairs, one of which changes his life forever.

As an Australian it was great to see the Australian references throughout the book, from small Tasmanian villages to the doomed hotel outside Adelaide. It even name checks the Port Adelaide Football Club and involves some Australian rules football end-to-end action (including Dorrigo taking a great screamer). Sometimes it seemed like Flanagan was showing off his knowledge of lyrical language but I can forgive him for that. Recommended. ( )
  MiaCulpa | Oct 31, 2018 |
Amazing. I didn't really get hooked but the last part is why I gave it 5 stars. ( )
  JohnLambrechts | Sep 24, 2018 |
WOW!!! What a book!

* it’s moving yet sensitive;
* it’s raw with a no-holds bar attitude;
* it’s gruesome yet gripping;
* it sends you on a emotional roller-coaster ride yet somehow you can’t bring yourself to stop reading it even if you wanted to;
* it reminds me of The Memory Room;
* the lack of speech marks somehow adds to the story - it’s like a reflection spanning many years;
* it’s a story of contradictions - hopelessness yet they clung to routines with great fervour always hoping they’ll make it out alive even though specifically expressed;
* it’s book that trying to describe it doesn’t do it justice - it needs to be experienced.

This book leaves the reader with so many questions:

1. How can humans treat fellow humans how the Japanese treated these POWs?
2. How can the Japanese (not sure if this is the case today) value life with such contempt and live with themselves?
3. Am I putting an Australian understanding of the value of life onto a culture that doesn’t share this belief?
4. How would I behave in the same situation?
5. Would I stand up to the Japanese or would I do what Dorrigo and others did and stand by and let the treatment that was meted out on the soldiers to continue? Would this make me as bad as the Japanese or do the normal rules of life not apply in a war situation?

This book tears at the heartstrings. I cried when Marco refused to take payment for the damage they did to the shop window and the fish, not because I mourned the scene but because this gesture of Marco’s showed a level of understanding that can only be shared between people who have experienced similar situations. This was further confirmed by his comment “it is good to eat”. This one statement held the rawest of truth and expressed so much more.

This book is an emotional roller-coaster ride which has a way of getting under your skin before you realise that it has done. I found I had to take a breather from the rawness and horror of the railway men’s plight - it was almost too painful to bear. It was at times ripping me apart.

Some of the characters:

Dorrigo and Amy - The Dorrigo and Amy scene I didn’t feel added to the story very much and I was glad when they didn’t get back together. This book was not about, dare I say, frilly endings but rather about the harshness of something that belies all logic and decent humanity.

It show-cased how life is never the same after war for all those who were affected by it, but it also showed how easy it is to live in, and for, what could have been (i.e. Dorrigo essentially stopped living - or living a lie perhaps - because Amy wasn’t a part of his life anymore). Almost like Ella was second prize and yet she was exactly what he needed to continue living post the railway nightmare.

Japanese soldiers and Nakamura - I found myself wanting to hate the Japanese soldiers & Nakamura for what they were doing to the Aussie POWs, instead I found I was unable to because I realised that they were as much victims of their superiors as the POWs were of them. They were all puppets on a string.

Summing up:
It showed how it is possible for humans to perform the most heinous attrocities yet somehow still manage to block out the severity of what they’re doing - probably because if they didn’t they would not be able to cope. ( )
1 vote zarasecker18 | Aug 22, 2018 |
Must read - Brilliant - Unforgettable - Important - Crushing - Great for Smart Book Clubs -

So sorry, wrote a long heart felt review and it vanished! Cannot replicate! Just read this book!
For Goodreads reviews that will convince you see:

Ron Charles - Washington Post
Sally Howes
Kim (Nov 02 2013) has a link to a wonderful article written by the author about how he came to write this book about his father's war time experience as a POW and his research for the book. The article is a perfect finale to the book as it clarifies what was fact and what was fictionalized, what was his father's reaction to his writing the book, what the author found when he interviewed former prison guards, what happened when he told this to his Dad (incredible!) and more. ( )
  Rdra1962 | Aug 1, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 112 (next | show all)
This novel would have been far more powerful and coherent if Amy were excised from the story. It is the story of Dorrigo, as one man among many P.O.W.’s in the Asian jungle, that is the beating heart of this book: an excruciating, terrifying, life-altering story that is an indelible fictional testament to the prisoners there. Taken by themselves, these chapters create a slim, compelling story: Odysseus’s perseverance through a bloody war and his return home at last to Penelope (in this case, Ella) and his efforts, like his fellow soldiers’, to see if he can put the horrors and suffering of war in the rearview mirror, and somehow construct a fulfilling Act II to a broken life.
 

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Richard Flanaganprimary authorall editionscalculated
Blommesteijn, AnkieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Mother, they write poems.

    Paul Celan
A bee
staggers out
of the peony.

Basho
Dedication
For prisoner san byaku ju go (335)
First words
Why at the beginning of things is there always light?
Quotations
But sometimes things are said and they're not just words. They are everything that one person thinks of another in a sentence. Just one sentence. . . . . .There are words and words and none mean anything. And then one sentence means everything.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
AUGUST, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW cam on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle's young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.

This savagely beautiful novel is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.,
Haiku summary
Horror in the jungle;
Love kept him strong -
An illusion.
(Bebedee)

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"A novel of love and war that traces the life of one man--an Australian surgeon--from a prisoner-of-war camp on the Thai-Burma Death Railway during World War II, up to the present"--

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