Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Railway Man” as Want to Read:
The Railway Man
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Railway Man

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  4,877 Ratings  ·  548 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 Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, he came to terms with what had
Paperback, 246 pages
Published June 6th 1996 by Vintage (first published 1995)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Railway Man, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
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
[Shai] The Bibliophage
I don't know why I'm always fascinated in reading memoir of POWs or anyone who lived during the WWII. This is my nth time to read a novel with the same setting and I always imagine putting myself on the shoes of those who experienced the war.

The hardships of these POWs are detailed on these novels and I can't fathom on how the oppressors could easily torture them. How can these devils still sleep at night or did they have conscience, are just some of the questions bugged me whenever I read this
Mar 09, 2014 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
Natalie Richards
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-book
I have to give 5 stars to this book because of what Eric endured as a POW in Burma; torture and atrocities beyond comprehension and his struggle for decades to understand what had happened to him and how it was still affecting him. Fortunately PTSD is now more widely known and understood. It took until Eric was nearing 70 to get the help he needed. The last chapter was particularly moving and will stay with me for a long time.
Jan 19, 2014 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
(view spoiler)

The film is brilliantly done. Some parts I had to turn my head away, and the end was such a bittersweet triumph of goodness that it brought tears to the eyes.

Sep 10, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Miriam Smith
My husband was given this book as a gift and came highly recommended.

After a bit of slow start that was slightly boring, the book became an interesting read with an account of violence and brutality during war time with survival and hope at it's forefront. Told as a true story of the author's real life events this is a very emotional read. He did enjoy reading it and now wishes to see the movie to see how that compares.

3.5 stars due to the slow start.
Betsy Everett
Dec 13, 2013 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
Mar 27, 2012 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
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
Jun 23, 2014 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 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
Alex Pearl
Jan 03, 2014 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
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 04, 2007 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!
Frances Heneghan
Apr 18, 2014 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.
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Railway Man: A POW's Searing Account of War, Brutality and Forgiveness by Eric Lomax

What's It About?
It's a remarkable memoir of forgiveness―a tremendous testament to the courage that propels one toward remembrance, and finally, peace with the past. Eric Lomax, sent to Malaya in World War II, was taken prisoner by the Japanese and put to punishing work on the notorious Burma-Siam railway. After the radio he illicitly helped to build in order to follow war news was discovered, he was sub
Buck Edwards
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant memoir written fifty years after being a tortured POW in Asia under Japanese Imperial control. Lomax's memories are clearly recalled in such precise detail that readers can feel the blows from the pick-handles, can suffer under the isolation and the fear of immediate death. As I often read while enjoying lunch, I found myself feeling guilty, feeding my appetite while Lomax is starving.
Anyone interested in WWII history will be rewarded, and anyone that has been wronged and dreams of
Kirstie Ellen
Jan 04, 2015 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
The Railway Man. This book is amazing, spellbinding, a rare and precious gem. I'm aware of how arrogant it is to describe in this way the personal account of someone's own unimaginable, immense, seemingly endless suffering as a Prisoner of War (POW) at the mercy (actually, anything but!) of the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. But there is so much more! It is difficult reading simply because of the meticulous, graphic descriptions of the torture experienced by the author and other POW ...more
Aug 16, 2014 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
May 08, 2015 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
Nov 05, 2012 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
May 02, 2014 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 (
Aug 26, 2015 rated it liked it
A book about a ww2 soldier who was a prisoner of the Japanese in the far east.
During this time he was tortured, and went through traumatic experiences.
The book continues after the war and emphasizes how these events leave deep psychological scars. That is the part that I found interesting, as it is similar to holocaust victim stories and to stories of Israeli POW's.
Another interesting anecdote of the book is the description of his meeting with the translator, many years later
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is the autobiographical work of Eric Lomax who was imprisoned by the Japanese during WWII and tortured due to his involvement in the hiding of a radio in the camp. Years later, when Lomax was an old man he still had not fully come to terms with the pain of his experiences and his inability to forgive but travelled to meet his interrogator and to face his past. The book is well written, harrowing, moving and with a fitting ending to the story.
 Soph - Lock&Key
Oh my...... This was something else.

So happy I finally finished this.
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bibliocase
The "Railway Man" is a searing autobiography of anguish and acceptance. This savage and emotional book initially rends asunder any shred of faith placed on humanity before finally restoring it by assuaging that such trust does not represent misplaced confidence. Although quite unsettling in parts, "The Railway Man" is a book to be read, remembered and revered!

Eric Lomax, an enthusiastic young man and an avid railway enthusiast growing up in Edinburgh is sucked into the cauldron of the catastrop
Cass -  Words on Paper
It took all of my patience to complete this book. The only motivation I had to do so was the simple knowledge and feeling of duty that I had, that in turning away from Lomax's story I would have been doing him, and all other POWs - past and present - a severe and unjust disservice.

The first 100 or so pages are painfully dull, and I don't believe any of the underlying effects of the memoir would have suffered had Lomax not included them at all. Once Lomax actually gets to the war, things do pick
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: change title 1 24 Nov 10, 2014 01:35PM  
Goodreads Librari...: change page number 1 10 May 20, 2014 12:22AM  
  • The Forgotten Highlander: My Incredible Story of Survival During the War in the Far East
  • Reach for the Sky
  • Three Came Home
  • Naples '44: A World War II Diary of Occupied Italy
  • Dorothea's War
  • Dam Busters: The True Story of the Legendary Raid on the Ruhr
  • One Fourteenth Of An Elephant
  • Prisoners of The Japanese: POWs of World War II in the Pacific
  • Forgotten Voices of the Second World War: A New History of the Second World War in the Words of the Men and Women Who Were There
  • First Light
  • One Crowded Hour
  • An Evil Cradling
  • The Airmen and the Headhunters: A True Story of Lost Soldiers, Heroic Tribesmen and the Unlikeliest Rescue of World War II
  • Bomber Command
  • Dunkirk: Fight To The Last Man
  • Ill Met by Moonlight
  • Anus Mundi
  • I Remember Nothing More: The Warsaw Children's Hospital and the Jewish Resistance
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...
“physical healing happens so fast; it is the rest that takes time.” 2 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.” 2 likes
More quotes…