The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Flanagan, Richard

Book - 2014
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
"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"-- Provided by publisher.

Publisher: New York :, Alfred A. Knopf,, 2014
Edition: First American Edition
ISBN: 9780385352857
Characteristics: 334 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Jan 21, 2015
  • Barbaravee rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

I could not complete this book. The endless, repetitive and horrifying descriptions of POW life under the Japanese were too dark and indigestible. The author's metaphors were mostly ridiculous, as if he were trying, but failing, to make himself more literate than he really is. To give him credit, his story has stayed with me, but not in a positive way.

Jan 20, 2015
  • deborahjohnston rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

What a great book. I initially picked this up, read a few pages, then picked up another book. I should have kept on reading, because it's now overdue at the library, but what a well written book. The misery of the POW camps, the love lost, the mystery of the nephew and Amy. It's not often that I want to immediately re-read a book, but I wanted to re- read it to pick up what I'd missed in Darky Gardiner's storyline. My dad would love this book.

Jan 13, 2015

I started this book, then put it down after 20 or so pages. Picked it up again after finishing another book - and am I glad I did!! I agree that at times the details were unpleasant and that not all the characters are likeable, but isn't that life? The story of Dorrigo and the incidents and people in his life was enthralling and upsetting and fascinating and so well written that I immediately searched out more of Flanagan's books. It isn't often that the poetic and the brutal live in the same work, but they coexist here to contrast and support the story of a man's life and mistakes and successes.

Nov 22, 2014
  • booktigger rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

'For the world did not change, this violence had always existed and would never be eradicated, men would die under the boot and fists and horror of other men until the end of time, and all human history was a history of violence.'
This is probably my favourite read so far this year because it was such a powerful read. At times i felt so uncomfortable with the story that I had to put the book down and comtemplate what I had just read. Although some readers have found the charcters unlikeable, I found that they were the victims of their time and place in history. A very sad and heartbreaking story that is thoughful and well written.

Nov 20, 2014
  • becker rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

A densely written, emotionally demanding read, but worth every page

Nov 18, 2014
  • mclarjh rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Whil the writing is good, the prose is not beautiful, instead it's often pompous and sometimes trite. I felt nothing for the characters, and found the book too long.

Nov 14, 2014
  • gendeg rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

What made this book really shine was that Flanagan chooses not to focus on the epic parts of the war but to lean in close to illuminate the smaller, private moments of that experience. The writing recreates the process of living and survival in such harrowing circumstances, and we are pulled back and forth in the narrative between the immediacy of the moments described and Dorrigo's remembering of them. Much of the labor camp experiences are told through a slipstream of disjointed recollections and flashbacks, the contemporary present mixing with the past in a shaky way. The process of that trauma relived gets imprinted into the main character's daily routines in the present time, and in the greater landscape of his larger world.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North isn't so esoterically fragmented that the storytelling gets overpowered by the writing, but Flanagan does play freely with linearity. The storytelling feels impressionistic, especially in the first fifty pages or so. Things are told out of order. We see glimpses and streaks of a man's life rather than a complete, fluid arc. Something in the present triggers a moment from Dorrigo's past, and suddenly we're transported there. Only our reading and collating of these chains of memories creates a proper narrative. Flanagan's depiction of how we remember our pasts through the lens of creeping age and decrepitude and regret makes this book so much more than the sum of its parts.

While the labor camp experience is the central narrative account, I actually don't think the book is about the war experience exclusively. And in fact, Dorrigo also remembers a great love he had once, a fleeting, doomed affair, which shadows his life as much as the war. When you consider that the book's title, "The Narrow Road to the Deep North," is actually taken from the writings of the 17th century Japanese poet Bashō, Dorrigo's story expands to something more than those two experiences. Digging around, I learned that Bashō's poetic ambitions were to remove all distinctions between subject and object and to cast away the self. Another Japanese poem is referenced in the book, a death poem: "Shisui's poem rolled through Dorrigo Evans' subconscious, a contained void, an endless mystery, lengthless breadth, the great wheel, eternal return: the circle—antithesis of the line." Perhaps, then, The Narrow Road to the Deep North is an exploration of that eternal struggle for Dorrigo and everyone else, a search for meaning, on both sides of the Line.

Oct 14, 2014

2014 Man Booker Prize Winner

Oct 14, 2014

Winner of the 2014 Booker Prize, Flanagan's novel is dedicated to the author's father, a former POW during WWII.

Sep 03, 2014

2014 Man Booker Prize nominee

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