A Book Review My Way — The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
February 28, 2015
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The Narrow Road to the Deep North is not on the New York Times 2014 Notable Book List. But it did seem to keep popping up in places and when I checked it out on Amazon, I read this:
“Nothing since Cormac McCarthy’s The Road has shaken me like this.” —The Washington Post
You want to get my attention, compare something to The Road, which is simply one of the most incredible stories ever written. Told simply, told starkly, it is a great example of a story stripped to its bare essentials in presenting a dark, miserable world. It is one of those stories by which I compare all others. What could go wrong if The Washington Post compared The Narrow Road to the Deep North to The Road. And this book won the Man Booker Prize, whatever the hell that is. And it’s got an average rating of 4.3 on Amazon.
And it is a monumental, colossal, unmitigated mess. Here’s what the Amazon blurb has to say:
August, 1943: Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. His life, in a brutal Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma Death Railway, is a daily struggle to save the men under his command. Until he receives a letter that will change him forever.
A savagely beautiful novel about the many forms of good and evil, of truth and transcendence, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.
I never got to whatever it is the reviewers loved about this book. The opening chapters are all over the place. This is not the spare, stark writing of Cormac McCarthy, this is the meandering mess of something that I had no hope for. I really wanted to read what that blurb says the story is about — the many forms of good evil, of truth and transcendence — but I just couldn’t keep wasting my time. Such a mess. So, lesson learned … to win the Man Booker Prize, write a story that is a mess.