Set in Australia and Thailand during World War II, The Narrow Road to the Deep North tells the tale of survival of the human spirit, and the narrow liSet in Australia and Thailand during World War II, The Narrow Road to the Deep North tells the tale of survival of the human spirit, and the narrow line between virtue and inhumanity.
This is a wonderful book club book. There are many themes worthy of discussion in Flanagan's work; and despite the tragedy of the Thai-Burma Death Railway, the author deftly keeps the reader from getting too close to his subjects. This was a good thing for me because it would have been heartbreaking if he had. There is also another purpose for the distance - the understanding that you don't really know the people you think you know.
One of the main story lines is between Dorrigo Evans, an Australian officer, and Major Nakamura, who is a commander of the POW camp where Evans is held. Threaded in the gripping story of human cruelty and war, Richard Flanagan explores the human spirit and the different ways in which virtue is recognized and achieved.
I appreciated this novel for the history presented of the Japanese POW camp and the Thai-Burma Death Railway. The author's writing is beautiful, and there are an abundance of quotes that linger in memory. I also enjoyed the examination of various themes, but my one big complaint was that the book never really came together in the end. I suppose that was intentional. Is there a point to war after all? Can something good and purposeful come out of it? Can humans truly rise above themselves and be more than they (or you) know them to be? I like endings that come together with one big "Aha!" moment. This one didn't, and that was sad and disappointing. But maybe that's the point. 4 1/2 stars....more
This work of non-fiction follows the stories of several women who served in the French Resistance during World War II, were arrested by the Nazis, andThis work of non-fiction follows the stories of several women who served in the French Resistance during World War II, were arrested by the Nazis, and ultimately ended up in Auschwitz.
From the outset I was fascinated with the tales of the formation, recruitment and activities of the French Resistance. That fact that so many young women risked so much at such a young age really struck me. Many of these underground fighters were circulating pamphlets encouraging the French to unite and resist German occupation. On occasion, a German soldier would be targeted for assassination. The Germans used informers and reconnaissance to break the rings of the Resistance and would routinely round up people for questioning. If a German soldier was murdered, Nazi officials killed groups of 100 or 150 of these Frenchman who happened to be under arrest - regardless of their innocence. So, the stakes were high for these women - some as young as 16. But they had so much courage and conviction.
Eventually, they were caught, arrested and sent to a work camp. I've read a lot about Nazi work (and death) camps over the years, but it's been awhile. This book was a reminder of how ordinary people can turn into monsters. Many, many prison guards were guilty of crimes. It's not just the hard work and starvation, but examples of torture and death for "sport" abound in this book. It's a miracle any of these women survived, and many in actuality, did not.
There were times when the book was slow, and there were so many women discussed in this book that it was hard to keep them straight. I think I would have preferred narrative non-fiction to help draw the reader in and get a better feel for who each of these women were. Nevertheless, I'm glad I read this book. It's important to remember these atrocities so that they aren't repeated....more
I think I'm going to have to create a special list for Ken Follett books. I'm going to call it "Books I hate and love at the same time." On the one haI think I'm going to have to create a special list for Ken Follett books. I'm going to call it "Books I hate and love at the same time." On the one hand, he writes a darn entertaining novel. In spite of it's nearly 1,000 pages, the pages turn quickly and I was reluctant to put it down. On the other hand, Follett really burns me with his too modern characters and inaccurate depictions of history. When you start yelling "Are you kidding me?" and complain about the author to your family members (while still being unable to walk away from the book), you know you have a love/hate relationship.
***SPOILER ALERT*** What follows might constitute spoilers for the book, although they are small and don't give away any big surprises. However, if you want to read the book without knowing anything about it beforehand, by all means, stop here. If you want to hear my complaints about Follett, keep reading.
(view spoiler)[Winter of the World is Follett's sequel to Fall of Giants, an epic story that follows English, American and Russian families through the Great War in the first book, and now World War II in the second. Lady Maud has married a German at the end of Fall of Giants, so now we have her family's storyline taking place in Nazi Germany during World War II.
The heroes of Follett's book are all Socialists, who appear to hate democratic conservatives, Fascists and Communists equally. The author props up Roosevelt and alludes to his problems as being the fault of conservatives. In one early chapter Woody DeWar defends Roosevelt's decision not to support the anti-lynching bill by saying he needed Congressional support for the New Deal. All around this scene is dialogue like "damn Conservatives!" and trashing of the Republicans. A person not acquainted with history would assume that it was conservative members of Congress that were preventing Roosevelt from signing the bill, when in fact it was southern Democrats. The bill was introduced by a Republican and had broad conservative support.
Later, when the United States enters into World War II, two of the main American characters decide to join the military because they want to help in the war effort. But, neither of them want to fight. They both want desk jobs. This sounds like a modern left-leaning American to me. I've read far to many autobiographies and biographies from World War II veterans, and the one thing they have in common is they all want to fight. In fact, the ones that were assigned desk jobs complained bitterly and tried anything they could to be sent overseas.
And let's look at Lady Maud and her German family. Her daughter, Carla, helped to spy for the Russians and when the war ended and they found themselves in the Russian sector of Berlin, Carla was raped and their family was left to starve. In non-fiction books I have read, the Russians treated well those that refused to join the Nazi party. They were given jobs and food. I can't imagine that this family would not have immediately confessed their espionage activities to the Russians in the hopes of better treatment. Better yet, why didn't they go back to England? Follett uses the excuse that the Earl disowned his sister because she married a German, but he certainly wasn't her only family member, and Lady Maud is British. For sure, Maud and her family would have left Germany. (hide spoiler)]
I could go on and on, but I won't. I'm not sure if I'll read the third part of this trilogy, Edge of Eternity (which is due to hit the bookshelves on September 16th). I'll have to carefully read a few reviews first to see what direction Follett is taking this novel. It's likely to deal with more recent history, and that might make me even angrier if he continues to revise history like he has in his previous books.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more