2014 Booker Prize longlist: The Narrow Road to the Deep North

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2014 Booker Prize longlist: The Narrow Road to the Deep North

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jul 27, 2014, 8:57am

This thread is for discussion of The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan.


Redigerat: aug 1, 2014, 6:37am

The second book I started, although the Kindle test chapters made me feel a bit nervous, too many time jumps in such a short time. Then I got the book and started getting into the story, until the love melodrama took too much space and I had to take a break at about 25% and started two other LL books for distraction.

I hope to get back to it by the end of the week when I should have finished the Hustvedt. If the love story develops as I fear, I'll skip those chapters and concentrate on the POW camp in Burma - that's the part that really interests me.

Edit 01/08/2014:
Okay, I tried to return to the book and "Amy's burning desire for she knows not what" made me decide to really skip that love drama. I know you can't discuss tastes, and so many people on amazon say how well this book is written, so it must be my personal taste, not a real question of quality. Can't help it. I'll only read the Burma parts from now on.

Another edit: for the third time or so there's the word "copyrightly" replacing something else on my Kindle. Can't be a swear word. Here's an easy-to-find example, the 2nd sentence of chapter 23:
he drove even more slowly than he copyrightly did
Could be "usually" or "normally", but why not print it?

aug 1, 2014, 4:20pm

Done! :)
4 down, 9 to go (of which not many more are published here).

I haven't decided yet about the rating, but between part 3 and the middle of part 5, for about 55% I quite liked the book and I started wondering if maybe the publishers wanted him to add a "steamy" lovestory to attract female readers and maybe increase the odds for a later movie? Because, while the affair dominated the first third of the book, it then surprisingly and fortunately played only a very minor role in the later chapters. It might well have been added to an earlier Amy-free version. The writing in the Amy-part is also different from the war and post-war parts.

After some wild time and scenery jumps in the beginning, with part 2 the story becomes more orderly. Part 2 = love story, part 3 = Burma, part 4 = immediate post-war experience of the ex-prison wards and the ex-POWS, part 5 = old age/ several deaths + (unfortunately) some more extra drama. Part 5 also has a completely unnecessary revelation that leads to absolutely nothing.

But also during the parts I mainly enjoyed, especially the Burma part, sometimes I felt hit on the head with some extra dramatic development which never came as a surprise. For example small spoiler following very early we know a certain POW is going to die and it is also hinted at how this will happen. But then we follow that POW and he takes a certain resolution and you just know that resolution will be his undoing. So the thing we knew earlier happens - which is in fact horrible, but also absolutely sufficient. And the other thing comes on top and (for me) destroys the strong impression of the first event.
Then there are chapters I really really liked and thought very well written.
Altogether it was an up-and-down experience, with some very low points. At around 30% (when the "magnetism" between Dorrigo and Amy becomes unbearable), I was close to giving up.

sep 7, 2014, 2:45pm

I'm very glad that I read your comments, particularly your last sentence, Nathalie. I'm 31% through my Kindle edition of the book and I was going to give up on it as well, since I'm back in the UK and bought The Bone Clocks and The Lives of Others yesterday. I'll proceed onward, and hopefully I'll become more interested in it as well.

nov 7, 2014, 7:06pm

I've been a Flanagan fan for years but found this hard to read......

Perhaps I should begin again.

dec 2, 2014, 3:49am

I loved The Narrow Road to the Deep North, which was a surprise, as I'm not really a fan of either war stories or of reading about terrible suffering. I liked Flanagan's exploration of guilt and memory and how some memories grow more vivid as we age. I was also impressed with how he looked at how both the perpetrators and the victims of atrocities come to terms with those events over time. Just a very well written book and one that is certainly worthy of winning the Booker.

I wonder if both the topic and that the author is Australian have kept it off of everyone's reading lists?

dec 2, 2014, 10:25am

President Obama just bought it.

dec 2, 2014, 11:46am

I wonder if both the topic and that the author is Australian have kept it off of everyone's reading lists?

That's an interesting question. I just posted on your personal thread that I don't plan to read it anytime soon. Most of that is because I just want to bomb through my TBR pile and I'm trying not to buy new books. But there are other factors. One is that it sounds so much like the movie "Railway Man" with Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, and while it was an excellent movie, it's not one I want to revisit. And like you, I'm not all that interested in reading about war.

The author being Australian doesn't influence me one way or another. I read his Death of a River Guide which I thought was excellent, but it was a challenging read. I'm pretty sure I have something else by him in my TBR pile already, so that's enough for me at this point.

Now, of course I will ignore all of this if I find a cheap attractive copy of the book.

dec 2, 2014, 3:11pm

6 -
It's been on my wishlist for a while now (pre-winning the Booker) but I'm waiting for it to come out as a paperback as hardbacks are just too expensive and too cumbersome for my tastes. But I do pick it up to look at it every time I enter a bookstore as it sounds right up my alley. (Plus, my grandfather was also a prison of war in a Japanese camp so I want to know how their stories relate.)