The Narrow Road to the Deep North: Richard Flanagan

narrow road

The best novels are those which help you understand history in a new way, and this book did just that.  It tells the story of Dorrigo Evans, a doctor who finds himself thrust into an unwanted role when he is captured by the Japanese and forced to work in a labour camp alongside hundreds of other soldiers who are building the Siam- Burma railway. His training as a doctor means that he is in a position to help his fellow prisoners and ultimately to have power of life and death over them as he is compelled to make decisions which will have a profound effect on his men. Dorrigo  is a reluctant hero, it is as if his judgments and actions are instinctive, determined by the fact that he is simply a good man .

There are also flashbacks to his early life, marriage and love affair and in the later part of the book we read of what happens both to the captured and the captors from the railway.  Much of it is deeply harrowing and at times almost too horrific to keep reading  but I became so involved in the lives of the characters I had to see it through to the end. And believe it or not, there are even some blackly humorous moments. Beautiful writing.

Hugely recommended if you can take it.  Winner of the Booker Prize 2014- and rightly so.