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Friday, May 11, 2018

The Narrow Road to the Deep North (2013) by Robert Flanagan

Book Review
The Narrow Road to the Deep North (2013)
by Robert Flanagan

   The Narrow Road to the Deep North, the six novel by Australian author Robert Flanagan, won the Booker Prize in 2014.   I purchased a hard back copy shortly after the win.  After that, my hard back copy sat on the shelf for three years, until I read it during summer of last year.   It is unclear why it took me so long to read such an eminently readable (320 pages) book about an interesting subject: The experience of Australian POW's building the Burma Railway in 1942.   Notably, Flanagan also includes the lives of the captors, including both Japanese officers and Korean enlisted men among the dramatis personae.

  The horrific experience of the POW's during the war occupies only a portion of the narrative- the rest of it moves backwards and forwards in time, as Flanagan explores the causes and consequences of the inhumanity of the Japanese to their captors (and to their own soldiers, it must be said.) The "hook" of The Narrow Road to the Deep North is this multi-dimensionality.  Although I can think of at least a dozen World War II era POW books, not a one uses characters from both sides, or at least not to the extent that Flanagan does here.

   The Narrow Road to the Deep North is a must for fans of 20th century war narrative, less so for others, but rewarding for those who take the plunge.

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