Tag: Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

Posted December 14, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard FlanaganTitle: The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Goodreads)
Author: Richard Flanagan
Published: Vintage, 2013
Pages: 467
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The Narrow Road to the Deep North follows the story of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor haunted by his past; life in Tasmania, a love affair with his uncle’s wife, World War 2 and so on. At the heart of the story is his horrific time in a Japanese slave labour camp as a prisoner of war working on the Burma death railway. Taking its title from 17th-century haiku poet Basho’s travel journal, The Narrow Road to the Deep North is about the impossibility of love.

I started reading this book at the beginning of my recent reading slump, I felt so much pressure to try and get it read before my local book club. As a result, I wasn’t able to finish it in time and I ended up putting this aside half read. I obviously went back to the book and finished it, but I think it did play a big role in my enjoyment of the novel.

This is my first Richard Flanagan novel; I have heard a lot about him, but never had a chance to try him out before. The Narrow Road to the Deep North is about the harshness of war, not just the struggle of trying to survive the battlefield, or being a prisoner of war. This goes further and looks at trying to survive post war. I’ve read some great novels similar to this; Catch 22, Slaughterhouse-Five, The Yellow Bird, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and The Machine come to mind. So I felt that I ended up using these novels as the measuring stick and The Narrow Road to the Deep North just didn’t feel like it covered the topic properly.

I felt like this book also tried to be an epic novel, following the exquisite pain of Dorrigo Evans’s life. Then I got halfway through the novel and wasn’t sure how it could cover the entire life in so little pages. I normally associate epics with great big books and if this book covered more of Dorrigo’s life then it could have fit this genre.

Flanagan focuses on not just the cruelty of war and it’s after effects but the impossibility of love, especially when so damaged. I think this was the major theme Flanagan wanted to explore, more than war and the Burma death railway. The relationship between his uncle’s wife Amy and then his girlfriend Ella play a big role in exploring Dorrigo’s life and the pain he suffers. Forbidden love and the relationship everyone expects from him; this is what I think the author wanted to explore.

I really enjoyed the style of Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, so much so that I think it could have been a future Australian classic. The main problem was some parts go on for pages in great detail and then others were just glossed over. There was no consistency and in a great epic novel, you expect the same amount of detail in everything happening. Sure some parts deserve more time but I think there were something interesting points that needed to be focused on a lot more. This is a good novel that could have been great; I think that is what frustrated me the most about The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

Posted September 20, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 8 Comments

The Yellow Birds by Kevin PowersTitle: The Yellow Birds (Goodreads)
Author: Kevin Powers
Published: Hachette, 2012
Pages: 226
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Haunted by Murph, The Yellow Birds follows the story of Private Bartle and his time served in Al Tafar, Iraq, the loss of a friend and the aftermath. Every war there seems to be one powerful book that is so heartbreaking but helps readers get an idea of the tragic nature of war; I’m thinking All Quiet on the Western Front, The Diary of a Young Girl, The Things They Carried, and now The Yellow Birds could quite possibly be the one to reflect the harsh reality of the Iraq War.

This is a book of friendship and loss; the novel is broken into two parts which are woven together. First there is the story of the friendship and serving together in the war and the other is of Private Bartle struggling to deal with the loss of his friend and returning from the war. There is a real beauty in the way Kevin Powers has melded the two together and the way he tries to help the reader understand the psychological mindset of a soldier turning from war. There is a wonderful part in the book where a bartender refers to Bartle as a hero and his reaction was basically ‘how can I be considered a hero if all I did was survive.’

I don’t want to sound to cliched with using words like beautiful, stunning, haunting and heart breaking but these words do seem very appropriate for this book. This is a debut novel for Kevin Powers and with his experience serving in the Iraq War and his poetry background, The Yellow Birds comes together for an emotional sensation. The proses of this novel are just wonderful and the characters really do seem to be well developed without showing too much.

I will admit I don’t read many war books but I’ve recently read two wonderful books on the Iraq war; this one and Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk (review up in two days). While both books were wonderfully thought provoking they were in two very different ways. If The Yellow Birds doesn’t become the stand out book for the Iraq war; like All Quiet on the Western Front, The Diary of a Young Girl or The Things They Carried I have a feeling it might be compared to the psychological mindset of war along with Catch 22 or Slaughterhouse-Five. This truly is a stunning book that made me tear up and feel for the soldiers fight in Iraq. Everyone should read this book.