The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Paperback Book

The Narrow Road to the Deep North Paperback

4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


This book was the winner of the Man Booker Prize 2014.

Forever after, there were for them only two sorts of men: the men who were on the Line, and the rest of humanity, who were not.

In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Burma Death Railway, 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 is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, propsers, only to discover all that he has lost.


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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

I don't understand the hype over this novel. A deserving and dramatic subject, definitely - the abuse and torture of Australian POWs forced to construct the Burma railway by the Japanese during WW2 - and one of personal importance to the author, whose father was one of those poor men, but I fear that the poetic flourishes of the narrative rather overpowered the raw agony of historical fact for me. The 'love story' between army surgeon Dorrigo Evans (and the romantic name tells the reader all they need to know about the character) and his uncle's wife was - quite frankly - masculine tosh, the sort of 'true love is all about having copious amounts of sex' relationship that jarred in <i>Birdsong</i> too. The chapters dedicated to Dorry and Amy's shag-fest - I mean, passionate love affair - are filled with lines like: 'They found not each other in the dark, but pieces that became a different whole. He felt he might fly apart into a million fragments were it not for her arms and body holding him. Listen, she said. We're sea-time.' What, even? Also, how many times does 'Dorry' need to tell us about the 'imperfection' of the beauty mark above Amy's lip? That section of the story, if not all bar the vivid reality of the soldiers building the 'narrow road', can best be described thus: 'There are words and words and none mean anything'.Richard Flanagan is a talented writer, and he obviously invested heart and soul into this account of the Death railway, but the resulting florid mash-up of bad romance and docu-drama didn't really work for me. In fact, reading this was a chore, apart from the main storyline about the Australian POWs. I would like to make amends by following up with a non-fiction account of the Burma railway, however!

Review by

This is not an easy book to sum up in a short trite description. The core of the book deals with the experiences of Australian prisoners of war and their barbaric treatment by the Japanese - these sections are unflinching but moving. The book as a whole is a much more wide ranging reflection on the nature of love, death and humanity, and the nature of simplistic labels like heroism. Flanagan also explores the motivations and post war experiences of the Japanese guards, interwoven with haikus such as the one that gives the book its title. A brilliant, moving story on an epic stage, this is a book that fully deserves the hype.