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The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

“A good book, he had concluded, leaves you wanting to reread the book. A great book compels you to reread your own soul” excerpt from Richard Flanagan’s, The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

“Should a book be readable or intense to win a prestigious award?” This was the question Preeti asked when we spoke about how I was progressing through the book.

It got me thinking as I wanted the review to give a clearer picture to the readers.

Flanagan’s saga is a deeply poignant, heart- wrenching narrative centered around the experiences of Dorrigo Evans and his fellow POWs, who worked on “The Line”, to build the Burma Death Railway. Every day was a bargain with death and a tussle between hope and stoicism. Flanagan’s novel is based on the experiences of his father, a survivor of this abhorrent ordeal.

The story moves back and forth in time from when Evans enlisted, to his return as an honoured veteran. The ordeal lives on and manifests in Evan’s and his comrades’ loneliness.

Very defly, Flanagan shifts the story to focus on Japanese tormentors’ view point. Single-minded and loyalistic, The Japanese Imperial Army sees no wrong in it’s brutal treatment of POWs. All is justified in the name of The Emperor and  honour.

Basho’s great haibun inspires the title and Japanese poetry is used beautifully to sum up the ever resilient human spirit.

” The months and days are the travellers of eternity. The years that come and go are also voyagers……”

When I started reading the book, I wondered why it was chosen over the other short-listed novels, one of which I had thoroughly enjoyed. 50-60 pages down, this brutal, yet beautiful story emotionally captivated me. Flanagan has very skilfully brought to life the characters and portrayed their turbulence and trials in a manner that touches the very soul of the reader.

Many write readable books, but not many can captivate the interest of the readers and move them. Any book that does that is definitely worth the accolades. And The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan definitely fits the bill.

Rating- 4.7/5
The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Richard Flanagan

467 pages

Published by Chatto & Windus

Winner of The Man Booker Prize 2014

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This entry was posted on January 6, 2015 by in Book Reviews and tagged , , .
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