The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan: reviewed

This novel, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2014, is quite an odd piece of work. It contains references to the likes of Homer, Basho, Issa, Trollope, and Kipling. However, at times it reads like a clumsy thriller, and at others like a tawdry romance. In terms of content, the narrative recounts the construction of a railway in Burma in the early 1940s. Prisoners of war suffered unimaginable torment as they tried to meet the demands of the Japanese Emperor, and many died.

The main problem with this novel is that a few of the fictional elements detract from the power of the historically accurate points. For example, the depiction of women throughout the story is largely based on their appearance. This undermines the so-called love story. Interestingly, the majority of the judges behind the decision to give ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’ the prize were male.

Nevertheless, the ambitious nature of the book does mean that it has an impact on the reader. In addition, the author managed to switch his story backwards and forwards with genuine skill. It might be interesting to see what Richard Flanagan writes next.


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