The Narrow Road to the Deep NorthPosted: 9 February 2015
I went into this bookknowing that it was about the building of the Burma Railway by Australian POWs, and that it had won the Man Booker prize for 2014, but it wasn’t anything like I expected. First of all, I didn’t buy the “great romance” that was supposed to be the driving force for the main character, and I saw no reason for it to consume so many pages in the early parts of the book. Because I didn’t care about that, it took me a while to get into the book. It consists of scenes cobbled together and while clearly this was an artistic choice, it wasn’t always an easy read
I have read a lot of books set during the 2nd world war, so I was expecting the brutality and senseless nature of many losses, but what set this one apart for me were the longitudinal aspects: seeing the aftermath of the war on its various participants and their families, in the glimpses and recollections of the post-war years. The sections relating to the Japanese guards helped me to understand some of the attitudes that influenced many of their behaviors in war.
Parts of it were compelling reading, but it wasn’t a page-turner in the classic sense except for a couple of memorable places. The scenes of the hero’s family trying to outwalk a huge fire near the end of the book will haunt me.