'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.
'Richard Flanagan’s sixth novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, has attracted quite some criticisms in spite of all the celebratory rhetoric that came after it won the 2014 Man Booker Prize. This essay offers a critical reading of the novel’s treatment of trauma as a theme and the ethics it reveals by looking into the way in which three national groups of characters are portrayed. Flanagan portrays Australians as nihilistic creatures incapable of noble emotions. In the meantime, he depicts the Japanese as people with a special spirit that deserves understanding. And he presents the Koreans as demons capable of the most inhuman atrocities. Through such deliberate nullification of trauma, the novel communicates a set of values that one would associate with postmodern ethics. It is contended that what the story offers is perhaps a truly "narrow road" for Australia towards Asia.'
'This article argues that, since 2004 or so, a new kind of Australian historical novel has emerged among practitioners of literary fiction, one concerned with the mid-twentieth century. This new historical fiction has been characterized by an aesthetic stringency and self-consciousness. Though Steven Carroll and Ashley Hay will be the principal twenty-first-century writers examined, reference will also be made to several other writers including Carrie Tiffany, Charlotte Wood, Sofie Laguna, and to the later work of Peter Carey. In all these contemporary books, technology plays a major role in defining the twentieth century as seen historically.' (Publication abstract)
'Whether it be Sir John Franklin confronting a "sense of his own horror" while hallucinating and dying in Flanagan's Wanting (177), Oblivia, mute and with no agency, possessed only of memories that Bella Donna "has chosen to tell her" in Wright's Swan Book (89) and ending her days in a ghost swamp (334), or Aljaz Cosini finding himself in a "gorge of death" because he has ignored the "language" of the landscape in Flanagan's Death of a River Guide (296-97), both authors write of an erosion of being and purpose, often using landscape and the history inscribed on that landscape to describe existential crisis. Magic realism, even its constituent words, has little relation with what Franz Roh proposed in his seminal 1925 essay on a new form of painting: the term has not only shifted its main focus from one artistic endeavor to another but has often features of surrealism or what Roh (dismissively) called "Expressionism," a term he used to explicitly label Marc Chagall's modernist work, characterized as including animals walking in the sky, heads "popped like corks," "chromatic storms," and distortions of perspective (Faris 17). Wright's dream of a common spirituality of reconciliation, also expressed in interview, also has resonances with Fuentes's belief (33) that all Mexicans need to recognize that Indians are intrinsically part of their culture, their identity and heritage, and must therefore work to ensure justice for that population. [...]the invading colonial culture was initially penal, brutalizing, and authoritative and indeed sought to make the entire landscape an unescapable and perfect prison.' (Publication abstract)