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The Narrow Road to the Deep Northby Richard Flanagan
2014 Man Booker Prize Winner
This is not my usual fare, and I bought Narrow Road based on a lovely review in the Financial Times. The book surprised me: I started reading it on a warm Saturday afternoon and finished it four hours later realizing that I had read something truly splendid, powerful, and wondrous. Some readers may find the chapters dealing with events that occurred in the POW camp off-putting, but I would urge perseverance: the reward is well worth it.
Synopses & Reviews
August, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma Death Railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. His life is a daily struggle to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from pitiless beatings. Until he receives a letter that will change him forever.
Moving deftly from the POW camp to contemporary Australia, from the experiences of Dorrigo and his comrades to those of the Japanese guards, this savagely beautiful novel tells a story of love, death, and family, exploring the many forms of good and evil, war and truth, guilt and transcendence, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.
"From bestselling Australian writer Flanagan (Gould's Book of Fish) comes a supple meditation on memory, trauma, and empathy that is also a sublime war novel. Initially, it is related through the reminiscences of Dorrigo Evans, a 77-year-old surgeon raised in Tasmania whose life has been filtered through two catastrophic events: the illicit love affair he embarked on with Amy Mulvaney, his uncle's wife, as a young recruit in the Australian corps and his WWII capture by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore. Most of the novel recounts Dorrigo's experience as a POW in the Burmese jungle on the 'speedo,' horrific work sessions on the 'Death Railway' that leave most of his friends dead from dysentery, starvation, or violence. While Amy, with the rest of the world, believes him dead, Dorrigo's only respite comes from the friends he tries to keep healthy and sane, fellow sufferers such as Darky Gardiner, Lizard Brancussi, and Rooster MacNiece. Yet it is Dorrigo's Japanese adversary, Major Nakamura, Flanagan's most conflicted and fully realized character, whose view of the war — and struggles with the Emperor's will and his own postwar fate — comes to overshadow Dorrigo's story, especially in the novel's bracing second half. Pellucid, epic, and sincerely touching in its treatment of death, this is a powerful novel. 50,000-copy first printing." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“A masterpiece....A symphony of tenderness and love, a moving and powerful story that captures the weight and breadth of a life....A high point in an already distinguished career.” The Guardian
“The book Richard Flanagan was born to write.” The Economist
“Nothing could have prepared us for this immense achievement....The Narrow Road to the Deep North is beyond comparison....Intensely moving.” The Australian
“A novel of extraordinary power, deftly told and hugely affecting. A classic in the making....Masterful.” The Observer
“Elegantly wrought, measured, and without an ounce of melodrama, Flanagan’s novel is nothing short of a masterpiece....Both dizzying and heartbreaking.” Financial Times
“A devastatingly beautiful novel....Charged with a hypnotic power.” The Sunday Times (London)
“Exhilarating....Life affirming.” Sydney Morning Herald
“Homeric....Flanagan’s feel for language, history’s persistent undercurrent, and subtle detail sets his fiction apart. There isn’t a false note in this book.” Irish Times
“The Narrow Road to the Deep North is a big, magnificent novel of passion and horror and tragic irony. Its scope, its themes and its people all seem to grow richer and deeper in significance with the progress of the story, as it moves to its extraordinary resolution. It’s by far the best new novel I’ve read in ages.” Patrick McGrath, author of Constance
“I loved this book. Not just a great novel but an important book in its ability to look at terrible things and create something beautiful. Everyone should read it.” Evie Wyld, author of All the Birds, Singing
“An unforgettable story of men at war....Flanagan’s prose is richly innovative and captures perfectly the Australian demotic of tough blokes, with their love of nicknames and excellent swearing. He evokes Evans’s affair with Amy, and his subsequent soulless wanderings, with an intensity and beauty that is as poetic as the classical Japanese literature that peppers this novel.” The Times (London)
“Extraordinarily beautiful, intelligent, and sharply insightful....Flanagan handles the horrifyingly grim details of the wartime conditions with lapidary precision and is equally good on the romance of the youthful indiscretion that haunts Evans.” Booklist
About the Author
Richard Flanagan is the author of five previous novels — Death of a River Guide, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Gould’s Book of Fish, The Unknown Terrorist, and Wanting — which have received numerous honors and have been published in twenty-six countries. He lives in Tasmania.
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