The Narrow Road to the Deep North

The Narrow Road to the Deep North 11

by Richard Flanagan

Paperback / softback Publication Date: 15/10/2014

4/5 Rating 11 Reviews Add your review
RRP  $19.99 $15.99

Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2014.

A novel of the cruelty of war, tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love. August, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian 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 savagely beautiful novel is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.

'The Narrow Road to the Deep North is a big, magnificent novel of passion and horror and tragic irony. Its scope, its themes and its people all seem to grow richer and deeper in significance with the progress of the story, as it moves to its extraordinary resolution. It's by far the best new novel I've read in ages.' - Patrick McGrath

Contemporary fiction
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
Random House Australia
Country of origin:
Dimensions (mm):
Richard Flanagan

Richard Flanagan was born in Longford, Tasmania, in 1961. He is descended from Irish convicts transported to Van Diemen’s Land in the 1840s. His father is a survivor of the Burma Death Railway. One of his three brothers is Australian Rules football journalist Martin Flanagan. He grew up in the remote mining town of Rosebery on Tasmania’s western coast.

His novels, Death Of A River Guide, The Sound Of One Hand Clapping, Gould’s Book Of Fish, The Unknown Terrorist, Wanting and The Narrow Road to the Deep North have received numerous honours and are published in twenty-six countries.

He directed a feature film version of The Sound Of One Hand Clapping. A collection of his essays is published as And What Do You Do, Mr Gable?

His latest book The Narrow Road to the Deep North won the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

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Customer Reviews

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4 / 5 (11 Ratings)
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  • A Booker prize winner well deserved!

    by on

    Richard Flanagan has been writing books for a long time. Best known for The Sound of One Hand Clapping, this is Flanagan at his absolute best. A deeply personal story for Flanagan and I'm proud to be Australian and for his well deserved win! Narrow Road has a dual narrative flowing through from the main character, Dorringo Evans time as a doctor in the Prisoner of War camp on the Thai-Burma railway to his successful life in Sydney as a well-known surgeon. Essentially this novel tells the story of love and the cruelty of war in its many forms, of mateship and heroism. At its heart is the impossibility of love and it explores the many ways this may take form. This is a powerful piece of Australian literature from one of Australia's best writers.

  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North

    by on

    The Narrow Road to the Deep North is a dark and powerful novel that will hold you in it’s thrall until the very end.

    The first half of the book demands your attention in the way that it jumps from anecdote to anecdote – you have to keep sharp in order to understand where Dorrigo is and how this fits in with the complex narrative. The threads that hold the story together become more apparent as you near the middle of the novel – there’s a consistent thought of Evans’ mate, Darky, and his demise, and musings over a long lost love that create a cohesive string of thoughts that you can grasp onto.

    Dorrigo is a young man from Tasmania, who is trained as a surgeon and shipped out to fight in World War II. After a brief stint of training in Adelaide (where aforementioned love is established) he’s thrown into the brutality of warfare and expected to be the leader of the ragtag bunch of Australians that look to him for guidance and support. It’s a role that doesn’t sit well with Dorrigo, as he sees himself as less than the boys who hold him in such high regard.

    The recollection of Dorrigo’s time ‘on the line’ as a POW is difficult reading. But with such reading comes the understanding that you too are in this with him, and that you must endure the descriptive narrative of the suffering of the POW’s – those who fear they will be forgotten, and plead with Dorrigo to keep their memory alive throughout the novel.

    As war draws to a close, the novel extends to recall the existence of life itself, and how all must go on after such atrocities. We follow Dorrigo as he reestablishes himself in the real world, participating but not entirely part of it, as he ponders his life, how he loves, and what it means in the scheme of things.

    We are also able to catch a glimpse of the life of the “other”, being the Japanese and Korean soldiers who terrorized and worked the Australians on the line. One accepts death as his due, the other chooses a different path in order to survive. Reading these endings feels hollow and wrong after the strong passages that were dedicated to the understanding of life on the line for the POWS. Flanagans abiity to define a right way of life and a wrong life is one of the most powerful lessons the book creates in its readers.

    Throughout the book Dorrigo relies on the magic of prose to keep the story alive. Haiku poems are used to signify a message, or soften the blow of a brutal passage that one has read. Themes of light and dark also play a vital role in the progression of the story, when light signifies good and dark belying evil or horror.

    Flanagan has worked hard for the Man Booker prize with this novel, and the win is certainly deserved.

  • Valuable, but not my cup of tea

    by on

    First and foremost it must be said that I am proud Richard Flanagan is an Australian author. The quality of his writing and ideas could rival even classic authors like Kurt Vonnegut. ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’ will make a fantastic contribution to the world of Australian literature.

    That said… I personally just didn’t enjoy it.

    I found a lot of the philosophical, almost arcane expressions (for e.g., “…and he knew he could now begin to fall out of the sun,” pg. 9) and the lack of quotation marks for dialogue a little pretentious and unnecessary, like they were used just to be ‘indie’ for indie’s sake. It made connecting with the truth of the story difficult - even figuring out why I was meant to care was challenging because the reason was often hidden under all these obscure, metaphorical allusions.

    I also predominantly enjoy stories that have at least somewhat of a traditional narrative structure, which basically means that at some point in the first few chapters the story question (for e.g., will Harry Potter find the philosopher’s stone?) is clearly shown to the reader. This book jumps around a lot and is not traditional in that sense. For some readers this will not matter at all, will in fact enrich their reading experience, but for me the ambiguity stunted my ability to care for the character or get involved in his journey.

    This book is for you if you want something different, if you want something that makes you think or tackles heartfelt subjects, or if you enjoy books like Vonnegut’s ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’.

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