The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was a wonderful read, reaching me on so many levels. The author allows the unfolding of a readable narrative while also touching upon so many ideas, issues and struggles that defy the conventional Western understandings of meaning, time and reality.
It is a war story in one sense, but someone looking just for that will be frustrated with the civilian contexts, and these are the keys to understanding survival and the emotional aftermath of a huge experience. The history here is at the level of the personal, but it is complex and nuanced, avoiding stereotyping at every turn.
It is a love story in a sense too, but someone looking for liberation through romance will also be disappointed because the hero is flawed and is incapable of being all that is expected of him, and his struggle is poignantly and agonisingly revealed within the events that became his destiny and his emotional disassembly.
Underpinning all of this is a brilliant expression of how such a profoundly subtle and sensitive culture could be capable of such brutality, and on the other hand how it was possible that brutality became a prison for the for the captors and captives alike. Guilt is put under an intense spotlight and found to be much more complex and fluid than a population could possibly have coped with until now that this generation has begun to digest and comprehend the psychological damage done to their parents, grandparents and uncles.
The prose is pared back, spare and shockingly moving at times. There are whole paragraphs that seemed to me to explode off the page as multilayered thoughts, blindingly simple but also alive with references to the great ideas of the past, linking art, philosophy and folk lore.
View all my reviews