Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road has been sat on my ‘shelf’ for seven years! I started it once, got half way through, and then got distracted by something shiny. I found it again recently, and as I did enjoy it the first time, started again from the beginning and this time, I made it to the end!
Looking back, I can see why I stopped the first time. Most of the writing is excellent, but it often becomes sentimental and airy, attempting poetic but incomprehensible sentences.
The story however is solid. Dorrigo Evans is the most senior POW in the Japanese Death Railway, where thousands of diseased and malnourished Australian soldiers cut through ancient teak forests to connect the Japanese supply route. The story bounces around times and characters, taking the perspective of the slaves and the masters. This is where the book is the most powerful, and worthy of the 2014 Man Booker prize – you do get an understanding of the motivations for the Japanese torturers.
An excellent, though flawed book, an easy 4 stars!