The Narrow Road To the Deep North, Richard Flanagan’s intense story of Burma ‘Death Railway’ and the Australian PoWs who were forced to construct it, has emerged winner of the Man Booker Prize 2014 from over 150 longlisted titles. The novel narrates the story of Dorrigo Evans, a doctor who fell in love with his uncle’s wife before the war and who survived the misery of the railway and Japanese mistreatment and returned to his country as a hero. Adding another layer of sadness and triumph to this book is the fact that the author’s father, who passed away the day this book was released, was himself a survivor of the railway.
When asked what was so unique about the book that made it stand out from the rest, AC Grayling, chair of the judges, stated – “the beauty of the writing, the profoundly intelligent humanity, the excoriating passages of great power, and the great truth of those who carrying on living after an event like that – when loved ones and comrades have been lost, when you are made into a hero but don’t feel like one.” He further added that the novel had a visceral effect; it was, he said, as if you were being kicked in the stomach, and the aftermath was that he was unable to pick up a new book for the next couple of days, the shock being the ‘best and the worst of such a book.’
This masterpiece deals with two very important themes in literature – love and war. The book even bears a dedication to prisoner san byaku san ju go, Flanagan’s father’s Japanese prison number – 335.