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The Narrow Road to the Deep North (2013)

by Richard Flanagan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,6481394,260 (4.03)2 / 358
"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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English (136)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (139)
Showing 1-5 of 136 (next | show all)
I had a hard time reading this book, not because it was poorly written- it's gloriously written - but because it depicts so graphically the horrors of the attempt by the Japanese in World War II to build a railroad through the jungle in Thailand, using slave labor. The slaves are Australian POWs, and they are driven mercilessly, starved and beaten, and many, many died. They develop a deep attachment to each other, with the goal to keep each other alive.

The primary witness to this is an Army doctor, Dorigo Evans, who struggles make moral decisions in the face of intractable orders. His story is told in flashbacks to his childhood on Tasmania, his formal rise in Australian society, his marriage and his deeply passionate affair with his uncle's wife. At every turn, he struggles with the idea of morality - what is a good man? While he is ultimately a hero both during the war and afterward, he feels a failure at the end.

The novel follows the survivors of the Thailand atrocities, Australian, Japanese and Korean, after the war. Some strive to forget. Some cannot forget. Some forgive themselves, some do not. Memory, the inevitable forgetting, is a constant theme.

It is a powerful book, horrific in that it portrays a real event and real actions, committed by people on people. Terrifying. ( )
  ffortsa | Dec 16, 2021 |
My uncle died in Thailand working on the infamous railway. This novel is a very moving, often horrifying, tribute to the many who died there. It's also a beautiful love story, complex and believable. ( )
  pruthomas | Dec 14, 2021 |
The horrific details of survival for both Australian POWs and their Japanese (and one Korean) enslavers in the dank depths of the Thai-Burmese jungled border to construct a Japanese railway during WWII are difficult to read and yet compelling. Their attempts to return to something approaching normalcy in the post-war period are equally discomforting and yet compelling. I found myself drawn to the Japanese characters, not because of any sympathy for them, but because their stories are so rarely told (the rare exceptions being Japanese works available in translation, like Ooka Shohei's 'Fires on the Plain' (Philippines) and Ishikawa Tatsuzo's 'Soldiers Alive' (China). The two love stories of the main character, Dorrigo Evans, somewhat paralleled by the post-war love story of Nakamura, a Japanese officer, are a stark contrast to the jungle. The love relationships seem remote and sterile compared to the endless rain, mud, feces, starvation, emaciation, ulcers, tiredness, and death in the jungle. While the novel is well-written on the whole, some parts seem overwritten, overwrought; nonetheless it's a compelling novel. ( )
  kewing | Nov 30, 2021 |
  ejmw | Aug 4, 2021 |
A brilliant novel about love, life, and the crushing, terrible horror of war. ( )
  illmunkeys | Apr 22, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 136 (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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Mother, they write poems.

    Paul Celan
A bee
staggers out
of the peony.

For prisoner san byaku ju go (335)
First words
Why at the beginning of things is there always light?
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.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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Wikipedia in English (1)

"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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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.

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