Thursday, 16 October 2014



Group Read - THE NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH - Richard Flanagan






The Mann Booker Prize 2014 by the author of  Death of a River Guide and Gould's Book of Fish.
 
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

'Beyond comparison . . . an immense achievement . . . Wilfred Owen wrote of his Great War verse: 'My subject is war, and the pity of war. The poetry is in the pity.' Flanagan's triumph is to find poetry without any pity at all.' - Geordie Williamson, The Australian

‘A story of war and star-crossed lovers, the novel is also a profound meditation on life and time, memory and forgetting . . . a magnificent achievement.' - Katharine England, Adelaide Advertiser

'A masterpiece . . . The Narrow Road is an extraordinary piece of writing and a high point in an already distinguished career.' - Michael Williams, The Guardian - See more at: http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/richard-flanagan/the-narrow-road-to-the-deep-north-9780857980366.aspx#sthash.n8eAQPd0.dpuf
The story is written about the anguish of Australian prisoners-of-war forced to slave labour on the Thai-Burma railway in horrific conditions, overseen by brutal Japanese guards. An Australian surgeon, Dorrigo Evans, is haunted by his love affair with his uncle's young wife two years earlier. He grappled with his wartime fling, as well as  the jungle elements, the lack of basic amenities, starvation and rampant disease and constant beatings to save the men under his command. He is cast in a 'Weary Dunlop' mould.


The novel jumps from the past to the present, around the  main character Dorrigo Evans, and paints haunting images of the stark and hellish prisoner life, the interactions amongst the prisoners, the larrikins and even the emotions of the Japanese guards that makes them human.The story is not all in set Thailand - much is told in Australia before and after World War II.
Its a story of love and war and death in its many forms. It is a story that remained untold by returning servicemen and left a void between them and their children, the next generation. Richard Flanagon's father was caught in this horrifying mire.

'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

'Beyond comparison . . . an immense achievement . . . Wilfred Owen wrote of his Great War verse: 'My subject is war, and the pity of war. The poetry is in the pity.' Flanagan's triumph is to find poetry without any pity at all.' - Geordie Williamson, The Australian

‘A story of war and star-crossed lovers, the novel is also a profound meditation on life and time, memory and forgetting . . . a magnificent achievement.' - Katharine England, Adelaide Advertiser

'A masterpiece . . . The Narrow Road is an extraordinary piece of writing and a high point in an already distinguished career.' - Michael Williams, The Guardian

       Awards
2014 Man Booker Prize - (Winner);
2014 Western Australia Premier's Book Award - (Winner);
2014 WA Premier's Book Award - Fiction - (Winner);
2014 Independent Booksellers Award - (Winner);



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

'Beyond comparison . . . an immense achievement . . . Wilfred Owen wrote of his Great War verse: 'My subject is war, and the pity of war. The poetry is in the pity.' Flanagan's triumph is to find poetry without any pity at all.' - Geordie Williamson, The Australian

‘A story of war and star-crossed lovers, the novel is also a profound meditation on life and time, memory and forgetting . . . a magnificent achievement.' - Katharine England, Adelaide Advertiser

'A masterpiece . . . The Narrow Road is an extraordinary piece of writing and a high point in an already distinguished career.' - Michael Williams, The Guardian

Awards


2014 Man Booker Prize
2014 Western Australia Premier's Book Award
2014 WA Premier's Book Award - Fiction
2014 Independent Booksellers Award
- See more at: http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/richard-flanagan/the-narrow-road-to-the-deep-north-9780857980366.aspx#sthash.n8eAQPd0.dpuf
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

'Beyond comparison . . . an immense achievement . . . Wilfred Owen wrote of his Great War verse: 'My subject is war, and the pity of war. The poetry is in the pity.' Flanagan's triumph is to find poetry without any pity at all.' - Geordie Williamson, The Australian

‘A story of war and star-crossed lovers, the novel is also a profound meditation on life and time, memory and forgetting . . . a magnificent achievement.' - Katharine England, Adelaide Advertiser

'A masterpiece . . . The Narrow Road is an extraordinary piece of writing and a high point in an already distinguished career.' - Michael Williams, The Guardian

Awards


2014 Man Booker Prize
2014 Western Australia Premier's Book Award
2014 WA Premier's Book Award - Fiction
2014 Independent Booksellers Award
- See more at: http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/richard-flanagan/the-narrow-road-to-the-deep-north-9780857980366.aspx#sthash.n8eAQPd0.dpuf
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

'Beyond comparison . . . an immense achievement . . . Wilfred Owen wrote of his Great War verse: 'My subject is war, and the pity of war. The poetry is in the pity.' Flanagan's triumph is to find poetry without any pity at all.' - Geordie Williamson, The Australian

‘A story of war and star-crossed lovers, the novel is also a profound meditation on life and time, memory and forgetting . . . a magnificent achievement.' - Katharine England, Adelaide Advertiser

'A masterpiece . . . The Narrow Road is an extraordinary piece of writing and a high point in an already distinguished career.' - Michael Williams, The Guardian - See more at: http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/richard-flanagan/the-narrow-road-to-the-deep-north-9780857980366.aspx#sthash.n8eAQPd0.dpuf
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

'Beyond comparison . . . an immense achievement . . . Wilfred Owen wrote of his Great War verse: 'My subject is war, and the pity of war. The poetry is in the pity.' Flanagan's triumph is to find poetry without any pity at all.' - Geordie Williamson, The Australian

‘A story of war and star-crossed lovers, the novel is also a profound meditation on life and time, memory and forgetting . . . a magnificent achievement.' - Katharine England, Adelaide Advertiser

'A masterpiece . . . The Narrow Road is an extraordinary piece of writing and a high point in an already distinguished career.' - Michael Williams, The Guardian - See more at: http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/richard-flanagan/the-narrow-road-to-the-deep-north-9780857980366.aspx#sthash.n8eAQPd0.dpuf
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. - See more at: http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/richard-flanagan/the-narrow-road-to-the-deep-north-9780857980366.aspx#sthash.n8eAQPd0.dpuf

20 comments:

  1. I admit to being excited about Richard Flanagan's win of the Man Booker Prize and also of the story content. You see, I'm a bit of a sucker for military novels and before children drained my finances, I would collect the diaries of POWs. Why? I don't really know, although my first job after leaving school was with the Repatriation Department ( now Veterans Affairs).

    Number2 has finished the book, three have made a start, and I know of two who hope to commence reading this week.

    Enjoy!

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  2. I will have to try to find time to read it. I've met Richard and his wife a few times when I was president of the AEU here, as well as having taught his daughters. He is a great supporter of public education and spoke (free) at some of our conferences. His brother Martin a well known journalist, is married to a teacher I shared a staffroom with, and my final connection is that I migrated here from England with my parents to a hydro electric village in the highlands just as he did.

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  3. Been a busy week with work and burst water pipes ( don't ask !) so not as far in as I would have hoped. I did enjoy the opening chapters which I felt were not over descriptive nor over wordy, although the author managed to set the time and the place beautifully:-
    "Slept under skins of possum and lived on wallabies and kangaroos".
    Also enjoying the Aussie humour - "he had a face like an apple core"- though I'm not sure about Dorrigo Evans yet. The jury is still out.

    Any thoughts to add ?

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  4. One of our semi regular readers has sent me a copy of a newspaper clipping from the holiday section of today's Sunday paper. The article starts:
    "A prize-winning novel about Burma's death railway may not sound like the ideal travel booster for a destination.
    But Richard Flanagan's Narrow Road to the Deep North is so powerful it is expected to have tourists flocking to Burma - or Myanmar as it's now known- to experience the historically rich country for themselves".
    Hmmm, I would hope that a few new tourists also visit Tassie and spend a few bob or too. I loved the description of Cleveland in this book, which I still regard as one of the bleakest places I have ever visited.

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  5. Hi all

    I just finished the book so I won't say too much or give away the ending. I do agree with the comments to date: parts of the book are written beautifully and the description of Tasmania is beautiful. It's also a very interesting composition - nothing particularly new but a good mix of part war story, part love story, partly about life. Loving characters then hating them and vice versa.

    A word of advice to fellow readers: you may get to a point about halfway through the book where it's difficult to keep reading. No reflection of content, the book just loses pace. Maybe the brilliant first half set my expectations too high or maybe no one else will have this challenge - in either case, just keep reading!

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    1. Number2, like you I powered through the beginning of this book. Loved it. Loved the language. Loved that the author managed to take me back to a time and place with minimal dialogue. And like you, I hit a wall.

      It's not the depiction of the POWs, because I've read far worse. I'm wondering if it's the "love story" that doesn't work for me. Yeah, okay, so I'm not the romantic in the family. Think you summed it up with that's"life" ( suck it up , princess). Unable to expand on this until some of our readers catch up

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  6. Another news cutting received, with the heading "my next book, I'm over Flanagan".

    "It had become traditional for one or more Booker prize judges to write about the behind-the-scenes judging process in a way that would be indiscreet anywhere else. Sarah Churchill, the US- born professor of American Literature at the University of East Anglia,has revealed in a piece for The Guardian that the six judges all loved two books this year, Flanagan's novel and Ali Smith's How To Be Both."

    Looking forward to hearing more of your views please......

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  7. I 'm battling with this book. It's not an easy read and I find it doesn't flow well,making it harder to get through. I am on holidays next week so hopefully this will assist my focus.

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  8. Yes..Richard Flanagan..started this under sufferance..
    Him being the author of Book of Fish did pique my interest, as well as him being a Taswegian to boot..
    First few pages..aaaargh!
    Mind games and ..crap. Skip
    Love affair..readable
    POW..readable, but then same old same old..skip
    Too far, but to a cave where Unspeakable Things Happened..this did it for me..read no further
    Dreadful book
    Sometimes I think that these people who win prizes do it because the judges don't want to admit defeat

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  9. Am I starting to hear a common thread about this book ? Some seem to be finding this novel a bit of hard work it seems. Is it the brutality within the prison camps and building the Burma railway line , or is it the way the story is being told to us that is causing the issues?

    Or is it the characterization of Dorrigo Evans do you think ? Dorrigo is certainly a study in contrasts. What sort of character do you find him?

    I understand that he is supposed to be representative of "the every man" , warts and all, but I am definately in two minds about him. At times, I'm right in his corner backing him all the way as he battles his inner demons to be the best that he can be whilst in captivity. Back in the real world I tend to be disturbed about his many encounters with various women and his indifference towards his own family. So our boy became a national hero which does not equate to becoming a good man. This does not sit well with me. Makes it hard to "like" Dorrigo.

    Of course, the story is also about others :Darkie Gardener, Rabbit Hendricks and the other POWs. This is more their story really. A story that they were unable to tell for themselves. This is where I feel Flanagan really excels, as his characters are totally believable, totally Australian. The nicknames, the humour, the language, the little incidents - I felt very connected to this as we all had an Uncle when growing up just like these lads. Maybe that's why the brutality is so difficult to take -we have become attached to these blokes , as they are representative of our kin.

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    1. Well said Moi, I totally agree with your take on Dorrigo. I also think you're right about the other POWs - something nice that I can take from the book now four weeks after I've finished it! About time!

      Not sure about Dorrigo. Agree it's very hard to like him both before and after the war. Is he his best during the war because he has to be? Are we supposed to feel sorry for him? By the end he is almost crying out for someone, anyone, to call him out for his indiscretions but his high profile had almost put him above judgment? The characters couldn't question him in the book. Is it left to us now? And are we supposed to feel good or bad in ourselves about questioning a war hero?

      Just some random thoughts but I really do wonder what the author wanted out of us...

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  10. Oh dear, having read your comments on Flanagan's book I am wondering what my husband will make of it as he is not an avid reader like me but I'm hoping that he will get into it over the Christmas holiday. Watch this space ....

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    1. Sylvia, don't allow any of the comments to put you off. Your husband has a history with this period in history. You and I are also of the age where we are familiar with that time, and so it is not as shocking as it may be to our younger readers.

      I have a friend whose Dad burnt the bodies at Cholera Hill in Changi. When Dad went off to war there was a young daughter, Mum received the telegram stating Dad was dead and subsequently re partnered , with two new babies. End of the war and Dad comes home alive and well. The latter partner takes the two babes and walks away. Dad and Mum make a life with another five bubs.

      My friends sister hordes food. If there are non perishables on sale she won't buy three or four items, she'll buy the box ! Products of their upbringing with a POW father,Sylvia., and we grew up alongside them. So maybe some of these comments are a generational thing ?

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  11. I'm sure the comments won't put me off having a peek once my husband has read the book though that might take a while!

    What a story that was about your friend's dad! It would make an interesting novel! Fancy having to cope with two babies being taken away from you. But then so many people experienced such sadness and horrors in those days and managed to move on.

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  12. And now for a totally different view of this novel :

    Flanagan was nominated for the annual Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award but missed out on this dubious accolade. I told you the love affair did not work for me! Refer to :
    http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/books-magazines/is-this-the-worst-sex-scene-of-all-time/story-fna50uae-122714588111

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    1. The URL didn't work for me. Says it is not available.

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    2. My apologies Jaywalker. Try it now.

      http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/books-magazines/is-this-the-worst-sex-scene-of-all-time/story-fna50uae-1227145881115

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    3. Oh dear! Yes, I would certainly have given the award to Okri - much worse than Flanagan which is bad enough!

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  13. Hi ladies,
    I was given a book last year, called "People Who Stuffed Up Australia" By Guy Rundle
    And I have decided that I will now read it, I have already read little bits from it and it really sounds good with funny bits, and so now that I have told you that I am going to read it, I will have to do it.
    Will let you know (if you like) what I think to it. Edna already knows that I am quite the political animal. So hoping it will be a good read, and I think it will be. Joy

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    1. I googled it and found this - sounds interesting.

      http://www.readings.com.au/review/50-people-who-stuffed-up-australia-by-guy-rundle-and-dexter-rightwad

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