'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)
bravery, cruelty and futility of war, good and evil, heroism, hope, Japanese, love, mateship, memory, national spirit, survival, war
Critical and creative thinking, Ethical understanding, Information and communication technology, Intercultural understanding, Literacy, Personal and social
Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia
of the peony.
On 15 March 2018, it was announced that FremantleMedia had secured the television rights to the novel, but no further information on the adaptation had been released.
'Australian writers from Marcus Clarke to the present day have used convictism to explore the way in which settler Australians have viewed their past and its influence on contemporary society. Convict fictions have been central to creating and reinforcing these Australians’ sense of their identity and history, and the form of the convict novel has been resistant to attempts to rewrite the traditional narrative of the past. This article argues that the underlying tropes and patterns of the convict novel have also shaped the ways in which other historical fictions have represented the past. It looks in detail at two recent fictions which use the conventions of the convict novel to examine more recent periods of Australian history and suggests that, like the traditional convict novel, their attempts to rewrite the settler narrative have been undermined by a nostalgia for the past which that narrative depicts.' (Abstract)
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.