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The Narrow Road to the Deep North

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  50,722 ratings  ·  6,225 reviews
A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.

Richard Flanagan's story — of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor haunted by a love affair with his uncle's wife — journeys from the caves of Tasmanian trappers in the early twentieth century to a crumbling pre-war beachside hotel, from a Thai jungle prison to a Japanese snow festival, fro
Paperback, 467 pages
Published September 23rd 2013 by Vintage Australia
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Lesley Parker I think it had incredibly 'soap-y' elements to it ... parts of it were screaming 'turn me into a Hollywood film!' I could have done without the cliche…moreI think it had incredibly 'soap-y' elements to it ... parts of it were screaming 'turn me into a Hollywood film!' I could have done without the cliched love story with Amy, and the bushfire rescue, for a start.
What did ring true, and what I admired about the book, were the prisoner of war camp scenes and the fact that the book went into the minds and experiences of the Japanese characters as well as the Australians.
Overall, I don't think it quite made up its mind whether it was a 'serious' book or a romance novel. More of the former and it would have been right up there... but it fell short.
I do like Flanagan as a writer, but this had flaws...(less)
Emily I believe that often Kindle books have different page numbers than the physical copy because they count blank pages and other pages and sometimes book…moreI believe that often Kindle books have different page numbers than the physical copy because they count blank pages and other pages and sometimes books do not use those pages in the count. In my copy of Library Journal they have the page count at 352. More than likely Goodreads gets their info from Amazon as they are owned by Amazon. (less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  50,722 ratings  ·  6,225 reviews

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Emily May
Nov 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Emily May by: Booker Prize
"I shall be a carrion monster, he whispered into the coral shell of her ear, an organ of women he found unspeakably moving in its soft, whorling vortex, and which always seemed to him to be an invitation to adventure."

I guess I'm inviting haters and trolls by reviewing this much-loved Booker Prize winner, but the eye rolls started somewhere halfway through chapter one and they just wouldn't stop.

It makes me feel bad saying this about a book which was clearly inspired by the author's father's
Caz (littlebookowl)
Sep 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned, favourites
I received this book for free from Bookworld in exchange for an honest review.

This book... Where do I even start?

The Narrow Road to the Deep North had such a profound impact on me. I often had to stop mid-sentence and contemplate everything; this book, people, life. I didn't even realise at first that it had drawn me in so deeply, but when I finished I was catatonic.

Richard Flanagan is extremely talented. He has such a way with words - his style is so unassuming, but then I find myself needing t
Ron Charles
Beware Richard Flanagan’s new novel, “The Narrow Road to the Deep North.” His story about a group of Australian POWs during World War II will cast a shadow over your summer and draw you away from friends and family into dark contemplation the way only the most extraordinary books can. Nothing since Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” has shaken me like this — all the more so because it’s based on recorded history, rather than apocalyptic speculation.

A finalist for this year’s Man Booker Prize, “The Nar
Kate Gordon
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've read it. I'm in awe. But now I don't want to talk about it ever again. ...more
Vit Babenco
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Narrow Road to the Deep North is an encyclopedia of death and compendium of love…
Love comes like a strike of a lightning, electrical and doomed love at first sight, a brief love affair with a lifelong echo…
A wild, almost violent intensity took hold of their lovemaking and turned the strangeness of their bodies into a single thing. He forgot those short, sharp shrieks, that horror of ceaseless solitude, his dread of a nameless future. Her body transformed for him again. It was no longer desi
Glenn Sumi
I have mixed feelings about Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road To The Deep North, the winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize.

- The book is obviously well-researched
- It was inspired by the author’s father’s gruelling experiences as a POW working on the notorious “Death Railway” during WW2, in which starving and dying prisoners were forced by the Japanese to hack through the Burmese jungle and build a railway from Bangkok to Rangoon
- The novel took 12 years to finish. Side note: in interviews, Flana
Dec 29, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm actually surprised that I didn't like this book, not so much because of the critical acclaim but because I have yet to see it get less than 5 stars from any of my Goodreads friends. So I am clearly the odd one here, left proverbially scratching my head to figure out why my reaction is so divergent from those I usually agree with, and with similar taste for weighty historical fiction.

The author is talented, and there are some very powerful lines in the midst of detailed, gritty, historical r
Jun 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The very best books don’t just entertain, uplift or educate us. They enfold us in their world and make us step outside of ourselves and become transformed. And sometimes, if we’re really lucky, they ennoble and affirm us.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North is such a book. Once I got past the first 60 or 70 pages, there was no turning back. I turned the last page marveling at Mr. Flanagan’s skill and agreeing with historian Barbara Tuchman that, “Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, s
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This narrative was magnificent on so many levels.
The structure - told in present and past. The themes - love, loss, survival, good vs evil. The history - of a railroad being built in the deep jungles of Java. Built by POWs with their bare hands as they staved off disease, starvation and brutal beatings.
The character - a man so strong, so broken searching for the meaning in his life.
The language - to feel the emotions attached to these characters. Exquisite. Authentic. Undeniably devastating.
Amalia Gkavea
"Why at the beginning of things is there always light?"

My head is full of a plethora of thoughts that, somehow, need to find their way into a text? Or do they? Probably not. This must be one of the most difficult reviews I have chosen to write and this is not a cliche. It's reality. Difficult because how can one possibly describe the horrors brought about by monsters in one of the darkest eras of History that, sadly seems not too far away or lost in time? Difficult because love and pain and
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
"For an instant he thought he grasped the truth of a terrifying world in which one could not escape horror, in which violence was eternal, the great and only verity, greater than the civilizations it created, greater than any god man worshipped, for it was the only true god. It was as if man existed only to transmit violence to ensure its domain is eternal. For the world did not change, this violence had always existed and would never be eradicated, men would die under the boot and fists and hor ...more
Sep 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing

Although Richard Flanagan has been on the edge of my consciousness for years, this is the first of his novels I've read and I may not have read it at all (or at least not so soon after publication) if it hadn't been given to me as a gift.

The novel is about .... what? Life, death, despair, loneliness, love, connection, redemption, poetry. It’s a grim work, centred on the experiences of the Australian prisoners of war who were used as slave labour in the construction of the Thailand-Burma railway
I was once lucky enough to meet Canadian artist William Allister, who spent 44 months of his life in a Japanese POW camp. He was beaten, deprived, and threatened with beheading. Amazingly, he survived. He spent decades afterwards consumed by hate and anger for his captors. Later in his life, he came to peace and a place of forgiveness. Much of his art echoes a Japanese influence.

"HIDEYOSHI: REVISITED" - William Allister, 1998

I remember being moved by his story, then. But I really had no idea at
When I turned the final page, I was relieved and sad at the same instant; relieved to have finally let the fates of POWs take wings to better skies and sad to not be living an alternate life, altogether.

This exquisite work of Flanagan is so “terrifyingly beautiful” that it redefined both the words for me. I was surprised to find my mind working at two levels.

One level drew shudders - the ulcerated limbs, the beri-beri attacks, the cholera ridden bodies, the virulent lashes, the shitty camps, t
Nov 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of conventional heroes
Shelves: read-in-2017
*Be warned, some spoilers ahead*

Dorrigo Evans is the protagonist of this dramatic novel; an Australian surgeon who serves in WWII and is finally captured by the Japanese and sent to Burma as a prisoner of a labor camp to assemble a railway that will connect Bangkok with Yangon.
The narrative structure is divided in five sections set in fragmentary recollections that focus on the milestones in Evans’ life: the archetypal affair with his uncle’s young wife prior to war that saves and condemns him
Angela M
Jun 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

"A good book, he had concluded, leaves you wanting to reread the book. A great book compels you to reread your own soul ." This is what Dorrigo Evans , the hero of this Booker Prize winning novel thinks and after I finished reading it , I couldn't help but think that this book is certainly the latter . "He believed books had an aura that protected him, that without one beside him he would die . He happily slept without women. He never slept without a book ."
Interspersed throughout the book there
Sep 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
The prose was flat, mundane, the love story was pedestrian and could probably be bested by many Harlequin romance novels, and the war imagery, while horrific, has been done (and kept provoking memories of the movie Bridge on the River Kwai, accompanied by the ear-worm whistling of the Coloney Bogey march). Unsatisfying and disappointing.
Steve lovell
Nov 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
From the slurry that are my earliest memories there is a night of pluvial rain out into which my father went. On the road below our house a taxi had come to some form of grief. I remember looking out a window and seeing static car lights. My father came back and reported it was his friend, an old army mate, now cabbie - Ray. In response to my mother's query, he reported that his pal would be okay - given a little time. I knew Ray had been 'on the Railway' during the war, without knowing exactly ...more
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
The 2014 Booker prize-winning story is powerful, harrowing and a quite difficult read but a book that will stay with me for a long time.

In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Burma Death Railway, surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle's young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera and from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever. This is a story about the many forms of love and
Violet wells
This novel has as its heart and soul a male character called Dorrigo Evans who becomes the surgeon and commanding officer at a Japanese POW camp of Australian soldiers. Dorrigo is not a particularly likeable chap. He reminded me of the protagonist of Salter’s All That Is. A male from the old school, egotistically incapable of love who self-servingly dramatises feeling rather than succumbs to it. Feeling for him is a kind of armour he employs to protect himself from his burrowed sense of his own ...more
Sally Howes
I cannot find the right word, or even collection of words, to describe Richard Flanagan's THE NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH - it is more than "moving," more than "gut-wrenching," more than "provocative," more than "beautiful." All I can really say is that it is a more than worthy winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize. And if you are looking for a book that will wring every possible emotion out of you, a book that will not only make you feel but teach you anew the depths to which a story can induce ...more
(4.5) A new classic of war fiction in the making, this kaleidoscopic, empathetic portrait of Australian POWs working on the Burma Death Railway during World War II was a deserving Man Booker Prize winner. Flanagan’s challenge here is to give literary form to the horrors of war, without resorting to despair or simple us-versus-them dichotomies. He maintains a careful balance of sympathy by shifting between the perspectives of the POWs and their Japanese captors, and by setting up a tripartite str ...more
Aug 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
“There is no doubt fiction makes a better job of the truth.”
Doris Lessing [4.0 stars; updated 8/22/16]

This intelligent novel occasionally hits with the force of an emotional powerhouse. It struck me most, telling me a truth that truth cannot tell, in one extended scene that shook me to the core. For those who haven't read this book, I will not spoil it with specifics.

Imagine tomorrow, as you run into the market to buy a few things on your way home from work. You notice, 30 meters or yards in th
Nov 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
I struggled with this one. It started well even though I totally disliked the main character Dorrigo Evans. I was coping with the constant jumping around in time and I was even dealing with the lack of quotation marks around speech. Then we got bogged down in the POW section. I was already aware of the suffering and terrible events associated with the building of the railway. It is well documented and we have all seen documentaries and movies and read other books about it. This book did not so m ...more
“The good thing, Darky told himself, was that it was still dark. He was wet and weary, but he could rest a few more hours. Darky was always looking for the good thing, no matter how small, and consequently he often found it.”

That’s exactly how I felt, reading this book. The abominations that were inflicted on Australian POWs and ‘slaves’ on the Burma Railway in WW2 are as sickening as anything that happened in a medieval dungeon or I imagine (shudder) in cave-man days.

The good thing is Flanaga
Sep 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
I feel I'm being generous with 2 stars here and it's probably only because I feel guilty that I'm not more moved by the plight of Australian POWs who were forced to build the Burmese railway. There is only one word to describe this book: boring. I wish I could adequately describe the many failings of this book but I fear it's just too far gone to even begin; I didn't care about his smelling women's backs, or his affair which felt flat, and everybody in the camp just spent the entire book slowly ...more
Diane Barnes
May 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book had a soul-searing affect on me. It's not so much a novel to read as much as one you crawl inside and experience. There are no sufficient words to explain what it's about, or how it made me feel, other than to say that this is why I read. Not for a happy ending, feel good, on to the next book, life is wonderful kind of story, although that's nice too when it happens. The events and emotions in Narrow Road delve deeper, into what it all means, and why, and how, and what if. Real life th ...more
Nov 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
Why do readers like this book?

I'm not asking rhetorically. I really want to know. I got through chapter 10 (only 8% of the book, according to Kindle), and then stopped reading. The author's voice and tone irritated me--in fact, they made angry, which almost never happens. I will try to explain why.

The author has clearly read too much Cormac McCarthy, whose books I mostly enjoy, especially The Road. Based on the 8% I read, Flanagan has inherited all of McCarthy's bad qualities, and none of his g
Paquita Maria Sanchez
I was writing a comment that I realized would probably end up being long enough to qualify as at least a half-assed review-like sumthin-r-nuther, so why not slap those words up here instead of down there? It's not like my new job has internet access like my last one did, and I can barely recall that past life in which I composed oh so many of my epically, awe-inspiringly phoned-in reviews on my lunch break. Do you care? Probably not, but I don't intend to edit this, so here we are, twirling our ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Jun 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In homage to his father, who was an Australian POW during WW II under the Japanese, Flanagan wrote this novel about people on both sides of the war. What is provocative is that the eponymous title is taken from the enduring 17th century Japanese poet, Bashō; the title is a haibun (combining haiku and prose), which commemorates the Japanese spirit. The Australian POWs were forced into slave labor to build the Burma Railway Line, or the "Death Railway." In other words, the Japanese "spirit" here w ...more
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Richard Flanagan (born 1961) is an author, historian and film director from Tasmania, Australia. He was president of the Tasmania University Union and a Rhodes Scholar. Each of his novels has attracted major praise. His first, Death of a River Guide (1994), was short-listed for the Miles Franklin Award, as were his next two, The Sound of One Hand Clapping (1997) and Gould's Book of Fish (2001). Hi ...more

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World War II has inspired libraries full of great literature and continues to hold a strong fascination for all types of...
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“A good book ... leaves you wanting to reread the book. A great book compels you to reread your own soul.” 277 likes
“A happy man has no past, while an unhappy man has nothing else.” 144 likes
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