Wednesday, 11 November 2015





I'm not going to pretend this is an easy read; I was struggling for 100 pages before I got into it, and would more than likely have abandoned it if it weren't for book group - but I'm so glad I persevered (and it sparked off the best discussion we've had in months). It is about the Australian prisoners who built the Burma Death Railway, one of whom was Richard Flanagan's father ;  I hadn't heard of this family connection as I was reading, but Flanagan's devastating, visceral descriptions of beatings and disease are so terribly vivid that I guessed he had access to firsthand accounts. The central character is Dorrigo Evans, a young surgeon who survives to become lauded as a war hero ... and this is a novel about war and love and death and survival and decency and good men committing atrocities. It has its flaws; there's a few too many coincidences to be wholly believable and I'm guessing that Flanagan maybe struggled to create the framework to top and tail his war story. But in today's world, too much of it seems frighteningly topical. Highly recommended - but it demands a weekend of total immersion; this isn't a book to pick up and put down. There's a good review here, by Thomas Keneally, and a sobering interview with the author - how very sad that a writer of this calibre should be struggling financially. (And how far does a £50,000 prize go when it's taken 12 years to write the book?) On a happier note, a friend who read it on Kindle said she has now a bought a hard copy as it's the best book she has read all year and she wanted to own it. At least, own it in the way you own a proper book. I'm not a Kindle reader, but then I'm not a daily commuter either.

4 comments:

Gina said...

It took me a while to get into this book but it was a book group choice for me too. Like you, I was glad I persevered. Powerful stuff!

mary said...

It is indeed powerful, Gina. Think I need some light relief for my next read!

Pam (Isabelle) said...

I gave up on it. Just too sad and depressing. I kind of skimmed through the second half. I am a wimp, of course.

mary said...

Definitely not a feel good read, Pam - and this weekend it's quite bad enough reading the news.