Review: The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Richard Flanagan)

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: ★★★★


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, from the Changi gallows to a chance meeting of lovers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Taking its title from 17th-century haiku poet Basho’s travel journal, The Narrow Road to the Deep North is about the impossibility of love. At its heart is one day in a Japanese slave labour camp in August 1943. As the day builds to its horrific climax, Dorrigo Evans battles and fails in his quest to save the lives of his fellow POWs, a man is killed for no reason, and a love story unfolds.


This book was so heavy that I wasn’t quite sure how to write a review comprehensive enough to reflect how beautiful this book was. You definitely need to prepare mentally when reading this.

This book had a detailed glimpse into the horrors of war life, revolving around the Burma Death Railway. It showed the complexities encountered by the prisoners of wars (POW) and the emotional turbulence felt by the main character, Doringo Evans.

The story mostly focused on war and human emotions, how violence has the most severe consequences on all war victims.There were many occasions in the book where I flinched and squirmed at the details Flanagan describe about the POW camps. The human emotions are so raw, I wonder how words could have such great impacts on me.

A very STRONG read and definitely not for the faint-hearted. So if you’re looking for a serious, emotional and heart-gripping read, I’d definitely recommend this. Be prepared for the emotional turmoil you will endure. But as you turn the last page, I believe all of those emotions felt was worth it. Because it made you feel more humane than ever.


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