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The Railway Man

4.10  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,309 Ratings  ·  431 Reviews

During the second world war Eric Lomax was forced to work on the notorious Burma-Siam Railway and was tortured by the Japanese for making a crude radio.

Left emotionally scarred and unable to form normal relationships Lomax suffered for years until, with the help of his wife Patti and the Medica
Paperback, 246 pages
Published June 6th 1996 by Vintage (first published 1995)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mikey B.
This is an extraordinary personal rendition of the ordeal of this man’s life. The writing is to the point and very poignant, giving much feeling to the sufferings the author endured.

The author had a rather sheltered life in Scotland. His descriptions of his upbringing and his infatuation with trains give stark contrast to the later events. Given his predilection for structure, the army also provided that, when he was recruited at the outbreak of war in 1939. He trained somewhat in Scotland and E
Jan 19, 2014 Rowan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After seeing the movie and being quite affected by it ( interesting audience in cinema, nobody left in hurry afterwards and some were crying ) I was eager to read the book.

To my surprise the book is different to the film in a lot of detail ( and much better ) but with still covering the same themes.

The really great thing about this autobiographical account of the war is that it not all about the war. The author starts at the beginning with fantastic detailed observations of the last of the steam
May 28, 2014 Nigeyb rated it it was amazing
The Japanese treatment of their Prisoners Of War during World War Two is about as monstrous as it's possible to imagine. Curiously though, and despite some horrific personal experiences at the hands of his captors, Eric Lomax's account is most memorable as an inspiring, humbling and remarkable reminder of much that is good about humanity.

There is so much in this book: early Scottish childhood memories; a lifelong obsession with railways; joining a Christian sect as a teenager; travelling to Ind
Published in 1995, I decided to read this after I had seen the trailer for the film. My interest was piqued as the film starred Colin Firth. Colin Firth is a lover of literature and for the most part has chosen wisely in terms of film adaptations e.g. 'A Single Man', 'The End of the Affair', 'Pride and Prejudice', 'The Railway Man' etc..The book centers on Eric Lomax a Scottish engineer with the British army who was taken prisoner by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore.

The book starts with
Ho visto prima il film, interpretato da un Colin Firth più che in forma e da una Nicole Kidman un po’ sottotono, o meglio, lasciata abbastanza in disparte. Ma, d’altro canto, la storia narrata coinvolge il suo personaggio solo parzialmente e, quindi, non poteva che essere così. Comunque, mi è piaciuto molto. L’azione si colloca negli anni della II Guerra Mondiale e si occupa di un aspetto forse meno noto di quel tragico periodo, ossia le condizioni dei prigionieri di guerra, ma anche dei civili, ...more
Paul Lima
Jul 01, 2014 Paul Lima rated it it was amazing
A gut-wrenching story of a POW during the Second Word War. When the British surrender in the far east to the Japanese, thousands of soldiers become prisoners of war. This is the story of one of them, although it touches on many of them. The first half of the book covers this train-lover's growing up in Scotland in what can only be called a time of innocence. Most of the second half of the book covers the time he spends as a POW. The last part of the book covers his return to freedom at the end o ...more
Diane Warrington
Feb 07, 2014 Diane Warrington rated it really liked it
Shelves: auto-biography
A very difficult but compelling read, this is the story of a man who went through the utmost brutality in WW11 but had the courage to realise that the process of forgiving one of his captors would help heal himself. This is a very difficult read in places. All of the rubbish tv in the world (Hannibal, CSI etc) cannot match some of the scenes in this book for horror and absolute lack of humanity. The eternal question is, what happens to some men that during times of war all the rulebooks of commo ...more
Mar 28, 2012 Carol rated it it was amazing
Eric Lomax writes a beautiful and moving war memoir of his early love and obsession with trains and his ironic war time experiences that bring him in contact with the railway again in the most horrific way. He loves trains so much as a boy that his parents worry about him. He knows all details of operations of trains, trams and cable cars of the early 20th century and is a big fan of the steam engine. He grew up in the Portabello section of Edinburgh, Scotland. His mother is from the Shetland Is ...more
Betsy Everett
Dec 14, 2013 Betsy Everett rated it it was amazing
Just read this again, after several years, on hearing a film was imminent. It made an even bigger impression second time round. It's the sort of book you can't get out of your head when you've finished it: the image of the little Edinburgh boy who cycled all over the city, and gradually further afield, to see and wonder at and mark the progress of the steam trains and railways he loved, never leaves you. Throughout all the pain and horror he then experiences as a prisoner of war at the hands of ...more
Alex Pearl
Jan 03, 2014 Alex Pearl rated it it was amazing
This account of the author's experiences as a Japanese prisoner of war is, as you'd expect, a fairly harrowing one. But what lifts this remarkable tale is the book's humanity and compassion, and the tenderness of its narrative.
Whether Eric Lomax is re-living his childhood fascination with steam locomotives and trams, or describing the horrendous, inhuman acts of torture, the prose are consistently imbued with an almost poetic and innocent sense of wonder.
The details, observations and character s
Frances Heneghan
Apr 27, 2014 Frances Heneghan rated it it was amazing
Soul-stirring story of hate, cruelty and the deprivations of POWs in Asia during WWII. Eric Lomax was an extraordinary man who finally found hard-won peace through forgiveness.
I haven't seen the film based on this book, nor do I intend to.
The reading creates images that are unforgettable.
May 11, 2015 Melanie rated it liked it
Let's face it: torture isn't a thing we like to think about. But when we do, it tends to be the violent kind that's the favourite of the media. You - or at least, I - don't think of torture as being malnourishment, forced silence, terrible hygiene conditions and imprisonment for months on end. It's a brief period where terrible things happen while x tries to get information from y, and then it's over. But Eric Lomax survived years of torture as a Japanese POW, and in this book he tells his story ...more
The depth and shear honesty of this gentleman's WWII POW experiences, along with his childhood fascination with steam engines and the surging industrial revolution, is bittersweet literature excellence. His memoir touched me deeply.
Dec 20, 2009 S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who complain too much
Shelves: bio-diary-memoir, war
The prose is not the most accomplished but the story is overwhelming. I read this years ago and still remember with horror the torture Lomax went through. And still, amazingly, at the end, forgiveness!
Nov 15, 2015 Kirstie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Review on my blog

The Railway Man
“It is strange, looking back now, to think of those boys at school to whom I was never really close. Men born ten years after me could speculate idly about their schoolmates, but that option was closed to me by events in China and Central Europe while I was growing up. I know exactly what happened to each of my contemporaries.

Of the twenty-five of us in our final year at school, only four survived the war.”
The Railway Man is an incredibly touching mem
Aug 17, 2014 Wanda marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
17 AUG 2014 - Bettie and I viewed the film version of this book over the weekend; I on Saturday and she on Sunday. Bettie mentioned she and M were discussing the possibility of forgiveness. I answered as follows:

Yes, I did. I rented the film from my cable provider so it remains in my viewing line-up for today yet. So, I will be re-watching this afternoon.

It is amazing to me the length of time Mr Lomax carried his "hate" deep within himself - 40+ years. I am certain this long amount of time in w
Nov 19, 2012 Neil rated it really liked it
One Sunday morning about two months ago I was reading the obituaries and I saw the one for Eric Lomax. I did not know who he was, but I read it and learned of his book. Before I had finished reading the obituary I grabbed the laptop to try to reserve a copy at the Boston Public Library. It was shortly after nine AM and I was already the second in line for one of their five copies. What compelled me to read it immediately is that the obituary mentioned there will be a forthcoming movie and I did ...more
Weiss Blumen
Aug 17, 2014 Weiss Blumen rated it it was amazing
It's only as I finished this novel that I realised what a truly wonderful book this is! In the early chapters I was slow to get into it. You need to realise that it's a well written memoir rather than a slickly written novel. However it's the truthfulness, the humaneness, the synchronicity, the coincidences that come together to form a true inspirational story.

For me, I felt such hopefulness and it reinforced the strength and courage of the human spirit. Miracles happened in Eric Lomax's life (
Feb 20, 2015 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
The Railway Man is a beautiful book about forgiveness -- the ultimate forgiveness between men of war. Eric Lomax's biography tells the story of how he, a young British soldier, is captured by the Japanese in Malaya during World War II and made to work on the Burma-Siam railway as a prisoner of war. Caught with a homemade map of the railway, he is imprisoned and tortured. Haunted by his tormentors and especially the Japanese interpreter, Nagase, who is present for his torture, Lomax struggles wit ...more
Jan 21, 2015 Kriegslok rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Harish Muralidhar
Jan 26, 2015 Harish Muralidhar rated it it was amazing
'sometime, the hating has to stop'
The scars that a war leaves with a soldier is one thing and those left to a prisoner of war is another. Eric Lomax, an officer with the British army in burma captured and tortured by the Japanese in the camps narrates his life in this book. From his 'mania' for railways as a child to the accounts of his exploitation in the pow camp, it is hard not to finish this book in a few sittings if not one. And after all this, knowing that your tormentor is alive would fi
Alexi Hill
This book is now my favorite book of all time. It is a very incredible an moving story. It is very difficult to wrap one's mind around the fact that this actually happened to Eric Lomax, and the fact that he could forgive one of his torturers/interrogators. This was an amazing story, which made it a very easy and quick read. Usually, I don't enjoy reading non-fiction books, but this is definitely an exception. This is a book I could read over and over again. I was simply amazed at the end of The ...more
 Soph - Lock&Key
Oh my...... This was something else.

So happy I finally finished this.
Aug 20, 2014 Trina rated it really liked it
I read this awhile ago, and remember liking it a great deal tho' little sticks with me other than the bits about growing up in Scotland. Which is ironic since usually it's the war parts that are so memorable. Maybe the film will jog my memory...? Sometimes the movie versions are better than the books - A Town Like Alice comes to mind. Loved Bryan Brown in that. And then there's the outright genius of The Bridge over the River Kwai which sears the story indelibly into your brain. Loved Alec Guinn ...more
Mar 27, 2014 Arti rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an important book in that it chronicles the real-life experience of a POW under the Japanese military after the British surrendered in Singapore during WWII. The Pacific War is a major part of history that has often been ignored, other than the Pearl Harbour chapter. The British Empire in the Far East was dealt a deadly blow by Japanese invasions, and, British POW's suffered not a bit less than those in Hitler's death camps. Japanese atrocities and war crimes have often been muffled in t ...more
Jun 23, 2013 Sandy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can be super critical of the books I read and so will try to keep a lid on it this time! Mr Lomax was not deserving of my criticism, he was tortured - I have never been.
He wasn't the only one to be tortured by the Japanese in WWII and he was not the only one to be imprisoned as his autobiography details. We can only imagine the horrors of the men, women and children who lived and died in these times. Mr Lomax was brave enough to put into words probably only some of the threats, demeaning tasks
Nov 15, 2014 G.G. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, world-war-ii
Recently I saw the film version of this memoir starring the always-beautiful Colin Firth. Inevitably, I find, films send one back to the originals with a renewed appreciation of their achievement.

Lomax begins his memoir with an affecting account of his childhood fascination with trains and the order and predictability they represent. This beginning--omitted in the film version--enables him to explain aspects of his suffering at the hands of his Japanese captors in Singapore beyond the physical
From BBC Radio 4 Extra:
Eric Lomax's best-selling autobiography, featuring his wartime experiences as a prisoner of the Japanese. Read by Alec Heggie.

Another splendid BBC dramatization.

A movie The Railway Man (2013) was made based n this book, with Nicole Kidman, Hiroyuki Sanada, Colin Firth. It must be really good.

A good book, but somehow not what I was expecting. The author gives very little insight on the soul searching that led him to forgiveness, as though he remained emotionally detached to the end of his life, or at least whilst writing these memoirs. Perhaps if the book had been written by his wife or someone very close to him, but not damaged by his experiences, we would have had a better picture. The other, indirect, victims of his torture were obviously his first wife and children, although they ...more
John Stanton
Apr 18, 2014 John Stanton rated it it was amazing
There are a great number of war autobiographies out there which are mind-numbingly BORING. This is NOT one of them. Eric Lomax had the benefit of good editors to bring out the details of his really compelling story. The insights into the impact of trauma on former POWs was something I'd never really thought about before, but this book gives due attention to it as part of the narrative. This is not a long list of names, dates and atrocities (though it has all three), but an amazing story of recon ...more
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Lomax was a British Army officer who was sent to a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in 1942. He is most famous for writing a book, The Railway Man, on his experience before, during, and after World War II, which won the 1996 NCR Book Award and the J. R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography.
More about Eric Lomax...

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“The passion for trains and railways is, I have been told, incurable.” 1 likes
“Torture, after all, is inconspicuous; all it needs is water, a piece of wood and a loud voice. It takes place in squalid rooms, dirty back yards and basements, and there is nothing left to preserve when it is over.” 0 likes
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