'A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.
'August, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle's young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.
'This savagely beautiful novel is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.' (Publisher's blurb)
Unit Suitable For
AC: Senior Secondary (Literature Unit 3)
Flanagan’s profound novel ambitiously explores the significance of literature and the ways in which texts, as cultural products, represent ideas as well as past events. The Narrow Road To The Deep North poetically records the experiences of Australian prisoners of war in the Japanese labour camps on the Thai-Burma railway. The central character, Tasmanian surgeon Dorrigo Evans, remembers his affair with Amy, his uncle’s wife. Alongside this love story, the stories of multiple characters are presented which sensitively document this period of Australia’s history, whilst also examining the nature of memory. The novel is based on the shared experiences of those in the camps and the author’s father, Arch Flanagan, to whom the book is dedicated, and the text presents opportunities for students to consider the tensions between documenting past events and crafting fiction.
of the peony.
Richard Flanagan’s novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North represents yet another addition to the catalogue of Australian war experience literature. The awards and accompanying praise the novel has earned since its release in 2013 reflects a widespread appreciation of its ability to reimagine Australia in a saturated terrain. Flanagan’s novel can be read as a critique of the rise of militant nationalism emerging in the wake of Australia’s backing of Bush’s ‘war on terror’ and the idea that the arrival of boat refugees requires a military and militant response. This article discusses how the novel’s shift from battle heroics to the ordeal of POWs in the Thai jungle represents a reimagining – away from the preoccupation with epic battles – but not necessarily a challenge to the overriding emphasis on baptism of fire narratives as the only truly national narratives.