The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
What’s it about?
This story follows Dorrigo Evans from his earliest memories in Tasmania to the end of his life in Australia. Much of the story revolves around Dorrigo’s time in a Japanese POW camp during World War II. Evans is a surgeon and an officer, trying to do the right thing in a truly hellish environment. We see the camp from many different perspectives. We also see Dorrigo Evans from many different perspectives. The book does not belabor the conditions of the camp but it does show the tremendous impact the brutality has on everyone as their lives moved forward. The book sheds equal light on the suffering in the camps, and the survivors suffering after the war is over.
What did it make me think about?
It made me think how complicated people are. How we really know very little about what motivates others. Dorrigo Evans is a complicated man who does not see himself as a hero. Others see him differently. The author makes the point that we are sometimes burdened by the way others view us- especially when it is different from the way we view ourselves.
Should I read it?
I thought it was well worth reading. It starts a little slow but keep at it!
“It did not fit with the new age of conformity that was coming in all things, even emotions and it baffled him how people now touched each other excessively and talked about their problems as though naming life in some way described its mystery or denied its chaos. He felt the withering of something, the way risk was increasingly evaluated and, as much possible, eliminated, replaced with a bland new world where the viewing of food preparation would be felt to be more moving than the reading of poetry; where excitement would come from paying for a soup made out of foraged grass. He had eaten soup made out of foraged grass in the camps; he preferred food. The Australia that took refuge in his head was mapped with the stories of the dead; the Australia of the living he found an ever stranger country."
It is said that no writer can do justice to what happened during World War II. Do you believe that?
If you like this try-
The Bridge over the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman
some favorites of the last decade
best of winter 2020
best of summer/fall 2019
best of winter/spring 2019
best of summer/ fall 2018
best of winter/spring 2017-18
best of spring/summer 2017
best of winter
best of summer 2014
last spring favorites
on my nightstand
edge of your seat
― Charles William Eliot
3 to 4- I found some aspect of this book redeeming but would not recommend it.
5 to 6- I really enjoyed something about this book (characters, plot, meaning etc.) but it was uneven. Some aspects were stronger than others.
7 to 8- It was a good book. I liked lots of aspects of this book. I would recommend it.
9 to 10- I was sorry to turn the last page. I highly recommend this book!