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The Narrow Road to the Deep North

The Narrow Road to the Deep North - Richard Flanagan

I don’t have words for this book. Seriously, the English language does not have words to describe how I felt while I was reading The Narrow Road to the Deep North. It has taken me days to write this review because I just don’t know what to say. I guess the rambling that follows is the book reviewer’s equivalent of being speechless.

 

The Narrow Road to the Deep North tells the story of a Japanese POW camp during World War II. It mostly focuses on an Australian doctor, Dorrigo Evans, but occasionally shifts perspective to tell the stories of the camp guards, the prisoners, or the people they left behind when they went to war.

 

I love this book, and I hate this book. The whole time I was reading, I felt this weird mixture of horror, sadness, suspense, hope, awe, and boredom. Like I said, there isn't a word for that. The writing is so strong and graphic that the scenes from the POW camp will probably stay in my brain for the rest of my life. However, I also felt like the writing was a little too flowery at times (especially during the Amy/Dorrigo affair), and I just wanted the author to get to the point and move on. I had to read more than half of the book before I became truly interested in the story, but once it hooked me, I couldn’t put it down.

 

Other than the writing, the best part of this novel is its multiple points-of-view. The reader gets to see the POW camp from every angle. There are no heroes or villains. The characters are all flawed and doing their best to survive. The story doesn’t stop when the war ends, so we get to see how the characters cope with their POW experiences. Some of them self-destruct while others are able to find hope and positivity in the experience.

 

This is a horrible, brilliant, confusing novel. Any book that can cause this many mood swings totally deserves the Booker Prize.