Every now and then, a book comes along that just knocks the wind out of you. Its beauty, honesty and depth are all things that grow within its pages, and it instantly hits your ‘Favourite Books of All Time’ list. The Narrow Road to the Deep North quickly became my most loved read of 2013, and has definitely made my ‘favourites’ list.
The story is predominantly set in a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma railway and is mostly told through the eyes of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian POW surgeon. His mind wanders to his love affair two years earlier, before the horrors that are in front of him take over again. The story is told from a number of different points of view – from those of other POWs to those of the Japanese and Korean guards tasked with building the railway for the Emperor. There have been many stories written about the Second World War and POW camps, but none I have read before have touched me like this did.
This book is incredibly moving, with characters you form attachments to. The characters have immense depth, wonderful relationships, and are used to excellent effect to highlight the good and bad in human nature, and the connections built between each other. The relationships between the men in the POW camp were demonstrated beautifully.
I cannot praise this book enough. It was a sheer joy to read despite being brought to tears when reading some horrific passages describing the brutality within the camp. The writing is absolutely gorgeous. I was going to note my favourite passages as I tend to do, but when I found my first on page 2 and realised the book was going to be filled with them, I gave up, but did want to share this one gem with you:
“But sometimes things are said and they’re not just words. They are everything that one person thinks of another in a sentence… There are words and words and none mean anything. And then one sentence means everything.”
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan – 5 out of 5 stars!