The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Wonderfully shocking tale of an unrequited love amidst the horror of the Second World War. Dorrigo Evans, the protagonist, is a doctor tending to the unimaginable injuries of Australian prisoners of war working on the Siam-Burma railway. Expect graphic descriptions.

Book starts in a fairly formal tone, rather matter of fact. Seems to take a while for Flanagan to find his tone, but once he does it flows magnificently- despite the distinct lack of speech marks and the skipping chapters.

When he awoke an hour later, she had painted her lips cherry-red, mascaraed her gas-flame eyes and got her hair up, leaving her face a heart”

“He happily slept without women. He never slept without a book”

The waltz now circle to its finale, and he understood the whole event as a strange nostalgia for a future that everyone feared would never belong to them, a sense of tomorrow already foretold and only tonight capable of change”

“In the quicksilver light and blue ink shadow, couples slowly separated and clapped. ”

He watched those perfect spheres of blood, three camelias of desire, continue swelling. Her body was a poem beyond memorising”

“Everything was snow. In my head. Have you ever had that feeling? You have a world and then all your thoughts have turned to snow”

Sea time, she said as another wave crashed. Man time, she said as the clock ticked. We run on sea-time, she said and laughed. That’s what I think.”

“It’s by Kipling. It’s not about remembering. It’s about forgetting- how everything gets forgotten

Far-called, our navies melt away;

On dune and headland sinks the fire:

Lo, all our pomp of yesterday

Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!

Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,

Lest we forget- lest we forget! 

Nineveh, Tyre, a God-forsaken railway in Siam, Dorrigo Evans said, flame shadows tiger-striping his face. If we can’t remember Kipling’s poem about how everything gets forgotten, how are we going to remember anything else?”

Adversity brings out the best in us…it’s everyday living that does us in”

“Do you believe in love, Mr Evans? Because I think you make it. You don’t get it given to you. You make it”

Tomokawa’s wife was even shorter than her husband, with an unfortunate underbite that meant she sometimes gave the impression of eating her words rather than speaking them”

“He waited for a denouement that never arrived. And her hurt, her pain, her tears, her sadness, rather than ending his soul’s hibernation, only deepened it”

And what we cannot dream we can never do”