Fiction The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

Published on July 21st, 2014


The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

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Blurb: 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. (Chatto & Windus, July 2014)

Thomas Keneally, The Guardian

“To say Flanagan creates a rich tapestry is to overly praise tapestries. One would notice, if not swept along by the tale, that the allocation of time to characters, the certainty of the narration, the confidence to pause and then lunge on, to play with time, are all bravura accomplishments.”

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Christina Patterson, The Sunday Times

“The horror is in the detail: in the Japanese guard singing “Binga Crosby” and “You go-AAA-assenuate-a-positive”; in the “stinking olive-coloured slime…oozing out” over “string shanks”; and in the “water beads rolling together” on the blade of a sword hovering above a neck. There is  horror, too, in the poems that the Japanese commanders recite to each other as they discuss the best way to sever a head. They were, says Flanagan, “deeply moved” by “their sensitivity to poetry”.”

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Alex Preston, The Observer

“This is not an easy novel. The winding path of memory that serves for narrative structure can be disconcerting until we fall into its rhythm. There are scenes of violence on the “Line” that reminded me of The Part About the Crimes in Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 – violence so relentless and brutal it threatens to swamp us … But always, for Flanagan, there is the possibility of redemption: in love, in friendship, in literature (the book’s epigraph is a quote from Paul Celan: “Mother, they write poems”).”

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Catherine Taylor, The Telegraph

“Flanagan’s writing courses like a river, sometimes black with mud, sludge and corpses, sometimes bright with moonlight. Danger is omnipresent, even after combat recedes; nature careless and monumental in its rains, its bushfires. The hallucinations caused by privation, be it physical hunger or erotic yearning, are unapologetically evoked. The stories of these casualties of fate catch at the soul.”

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Melissa Katsoulis, The Times

“Flanagan’s prose is richly innovative and captures perfectly the Australian demotic of tough blokes, with their love of nicknames and excellent swearing. He evokes Evans’s affair with Amy, and his subsequent soulless wanderings, with an intensity and beauty that is as poetic as the classical Japanese literature that peppers this novel. However, the reader is not permitted to wallow in this loveliness for long, as the unremittingly vile scenes of torture, sickness and death are lengthy and frequent, making this unforgettable story of men at war a horribly disturbing, albeit necessary, read.”

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