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Book Review

‘Narrow Road to the Deep North’


Richard Flanagan’s Man Booker Prize winning novel “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” is a book that

By Richard Flanagan Vintage April 14, 2015 $15.95 416 pp Courtesy of Beaverdale Books

By Richard Flanagan
April 14, 2015
416 pp
Courtesy of Beaverdale Books

explores the atrocities of war. The novel starts out in Melbourne, Australia, as Dorrigo Evans reflects on his childhood in Tasmania and the time he spent as a surgeon in a Japanese prisoner of war (POW) camp. The POW camp was on the Thai-Burma Death Railway and was part of the Japanese war effort. The narrative focus shifts from Dorrigo Evans to his fellow POWs to the Japanese officers in charge. This gives the reader a more encompassing view of life in a POW camp. Flanagan shows the way in which the POWs made sense of the senselessness. One prisoner rises early to work on memorizing “Mein Kopf.” Another paints pictures with stolen supplies depicting the horrors experienced. The Japanese point of view shows that even being in charge at a POW camp is miserable. It also tells of the pressure put on the commanders to finish the railroad, and as prisoners died and conditions worsened, the daily quotas increased.

Toward the end of the novel, after the war has ended, the reader gets a sense of how hard it is to return from war and lead a normal life. This is also told from multiple points of view, from Dorrigo Evans going on to become a famous surgeon to fellow POWs trying to assimilate as best they can to Japanese officers getting convicted of war crimes.

Readers who liked “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand would enjoy “Narrow Road to the Deep North.” This is not a novel for the faint of heart. If you like reading about World War II and don’t mind the carnage, try “Narrow Road to the Deep North.”

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