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Publisher's Summary

A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.

August, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle's young wife two years earlier.

Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever. This savagely beautiful novel is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.

©2013 Copyright © Richard Flanagan 2013. The moral right of the author has been asserted. (P)2013 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

Critic Reviews

"Richard Flanagan is one of the most exciting novelists working anywhere, full stop." (The Age)
"Flanagan can stop a reader's breath." (Los Angeles Times)
"Mr Flanagan is a master of sleight of hand, adept at using words to conjure worlds, an indefatigable artist." (The New York Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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Insert hyperbole here

Would you listen to The Narrow Road to the Deep North again? Why?

Yes. I was obsessed by this book, and counted the minutes until I could resume listening.

What other book might you compare The Narrow Road to the Deep North to and why?

So many, so few. Any book that makes you think. Anything that makes you consider shadows and blurred lines is worthy.

What about Richard Flanagan’s performance did you like?

If it wasn't the author, I would have been less generous with my rating here. Flanagan will never win the prize for narration, however, hearing a remarkable book read to you by its author adds an extra layer to the experience.

If you could rename The Narrow Road to the Deep North, what would you call it?

I wouldn't presume to rename it.

Any additional comments?

This is one of those once in a lifetime reads. Beautiful and lyrical, and prosaic and horrific by turn, it will stay with you for a very long time.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Masterful

Dorrigo Evans is an Australian doctor - a surgeon - who finds himself leading a group of 700 prisoners of war working on the Burma Thai Railway during World War Two. Before he goes to war he is involved in a love affair of life changing proportions. But, amazingly, life goes on after the affair and the war, and Dorrigo is for the rest of his life considered a hero by the nation, although he never understands why as he knows himself to be a very flawed character. Indeed, Flanagan shows us this character in full flight, a man of both high restraint and strong passion. This is a book of enormous scope and yet highly focused, with personal stories entwined with historical events, and universal human values muddied by culture and human frailty. Although there are many characters and a number of points of view, Flanagan succeeds in developing a structure which rewards the reader more as the book proceeds. Changes of time, place and character form a complex pattern, but one that makes sense. We are left with questions about the nature of love and just what makes people good or bad, both in the most personal of senses and as a group.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Insight and tenderness in a dark time in history

If you could sum up The Narrow Road to the Deep North in three words, what would they be?

Stirring, enlightening, tender

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Narrow Road to the Deep North?

There is a moment when the reader learns something the protagonist isn't aware of and it changes the complexion of the whole book.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Richard Flanagan?

Anyone else. Sam Neil (kiwi I know) or and australian with natural gravitas. Flanagan wrote the book but I didn't like his narration. The start of the book is read especially slow, I assume to add and artistic solemnity but it annoyed me.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

A boring man's journey through the bitter trials of love and war.

Any additional comments?

Seriously, i enjoyed this book but (SPOILERS) the protagonist is a serial adulterer, a rock-star surgeon and a leader of men though horrific conditions BUT he is so dull!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jenny
  • Woodlands, Australia
  • 10-22-14

What Is Love?

Would you consider the audio edition of The Narrow Road to the Deep North to be better than the print version?

No, not better. Each one has so much to offer the person reading or listening. Both are intimately connected to Richard Flanagan in a remarkable way.

What other book might you compare The Narrow Road to the Deep North to and why?

I have not read a book quite like this one. Richard Flanagan has written so sensitively about human relationships - between people - and within oneself. The way he writes challenges the reader/listener to reflect on their own experiences, even if that person does not recognise what is happening to them as they work through the book.

Which character – as performed by Richard Flanagan – was your favorite?

For a lot of the book I was drawn to Darky Gardiner; and I was shocked to discover his origins. The revealing of his story, was as ironic as it was loving.<br/><br/>In the end, I had the greatest warmth for Amy. Her bewilderment, her illness, her life, mostly unexpressed after the early part of the book, brought out the caring, nurturing part of my soul. I felt good thinking about her.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I was so very impressed with the way Dorrigo Evans' story is brought around at the end of the book. Such sensitive and insightful writing.

Any additional comments?

I was deeply moved to hear Richard Flanagan reading his book. Many authors are far from being adequate narrators. RF, using a flat voice, with very little intonation, allowed the characters to reveal themselves without any veiling.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Yeek

Would you try another book from Richard Flanagan and/or Richard Flanagan?

No

Would you ever listen to anything by Richard Flanagan again?

No - he's a terrible narrator - he needs to get someone else to read his books

Would you be willing to try another one of Richard Flanagan’s performances?

No way

What character would you cut from The Narrow Road to the Deep North?

Dorigo

Any additional comments?

This book has some awful aspects - mostly the narcissistic authorial voice - but also some excruciating dialogue, the portrayal of women as cardboard sex objects, the general sense that the author thinks the reader may be stupid ... how did it win the The Booker? Oh that's right - judged by men.

  • Overall

This would better be read by someone else...

Richard Flanagan is a good writer but an aweful orator. This book does not handle easy subjects but reading it in a monotonouse flat tone with hardly any expression of emotion is a waste of well-written drama.

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  • Ninell
  • Pretoria, South Africa
  • 05-02-16

Terrible narrator... But excellent read!

Australian accent, no talent for reading... It's a pity this excellent book was not read by an accomplished narrator.

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Moving in the extreme.

A well crafted story about the infamous building of the Death Railway. Seen from different perspectives. It explains many things but excuses none. Don't read it if you cannot cope with graphic descriptions of that living hell.

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  • Susan
  • Tomewin, NSW, Australia
  • 02-23-15

What moves the soul through the experiences of war

What drives us to remember, to forget? What will we think of our lives, what we witnessed, our actions, motives, when our own end comes?

These are the questions I ask having just finished this moving portrait of one man and his path through war and its aftermath .

Richard Flanagan may be difficult to listen to for non Australians, but , as an Australian, I found his narration truly authentic. The slow, thoughtful drawl, colouring in the picture of Dr Evans, pacing his experiences and allowing each thought to sink in deeply, to stir the listener , to make us think.

I read and wept, read and wept.

Lest We Forget.

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Harrowing

Where does The Narrow Road to the Deep North rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I usually choose less cerebral novels as audiobooks, so this would be my most literary choice so far.

What did you like best about this story?

It's just an extraordinary journey. Immensely moving and beautifully written.

What about Richard Flanagan’s performance did you like?

I found his reading a bit "flat". I think actors are a better choice.

Who was the most memorable character of The Narrow Road to the Deep North and why?

How could you not fall in love with Dorrigo - a truly honourable man. I kept thinking of Atticus Finch.

Any additional comments?

This is not a book for the faint hearted. I don't think I could ever watch a film version. It is beautiful and terrible. Highly recommended.

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  • Nev W Gilllett
  • 11-25-14

Annoying voice

What would have made The Narrow Road to the Deep North better?

A professional voice.

What did you like best about this story?

it seems to be really well written and about a subject matter I find fascinating. it's just the read that lets it down

What didn’t you like about Richard Flanagan’s performance?

Unbelievably slow and laborious. Almost without emotion.

Any additional comments?

I will read this book instead of listening to it.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • mm
  • 10-16-14

Listen to a sample of the audio before you buy it

How did the narrator detract from the book?

As far as I could tell there was some nice clean prose and a good story struggling to get out, but some one should have explained to Richard Flanagan that it was time to hand over his baby to an actor capable of infusing some life into the narrative. I gave up after the opening and, on the basis that I do think there may be a good book there, have ordered the kindle version instead.

20 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • Barbara
  • 10-17-14

Awful.

Any additional comments?

Thought I would identify with the subject matter because my father served in Burma in WW2, but really couldn't engage with this at all. Persevered for 20 chapters and I am rarely beaten by a book, felt like I was stuck in an endless traffic jam, relief to admit I want to return this one!

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Dinah
  • 10-25-14

The Narrow Road to the Deep North: a Life

What did you like most about The Narrow Road to the Deep North?

This is not an easy story, but it is very absorbing and moving. The listener experiences a life's journey through the sufferings of WWII as a Japanese POW and the dissatisfactions of the return to 'normal life.'

What did you like best about this story?

The emotional involvement and the engaging story was the best part of the story.

Did Richard Flanagan do a good job differentiating each of the characters? How?

Some effort needs to be given to differentiate between each of the characters, particularly at the beginning. One criticism I have is that the names of the characters are rather unrealistic and become a little annoying.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I did listen to this all in one sitting and this was how I would advise you to listen to it.

Any additional comments?

The author is an excellent writer, but a poor narrator. The monotone of the reading, in a thick Tasmanian accent, is soporific and does not help the listener. For such a, now, prize-winning novel, I would advise Audible to re-record this with a more engaging narrator.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • C. Evans
  • 10-14-14

Weary narration overcomes incident

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Sharper editing and a professional narrator. This is an example of how the writer is sometimes not the best reader of his work. Flanagan narrates in a dull weary monotone which is only sometimes appropriate for the character of Dorrigo. It put me to sleep, lost my interest when driving no matter how dramatic the subject matter. Mispronounciations annoyed me: maybe an Australian 'antimacassar' is said with the stress on the third syllable but I don't ' think a hat is worn 'rakkishly' even Down Under. The writing is very uneven, especially in the Australian sections: longwinded expositions of unconvincing emotions, wince-making descriptions surely qualifying for entry in The Bad Sex Award ( lots of 'short pants'). The Burma railway chapters are vividly imagined and I was especially moved by the exploration of the Japanese officers' situation, more chilling and intense than the catalogue of the POWs' horrors. I look forward to reading the novel to judge for myself why it was selected for the ManBooker list to as I felt unable to stuck with the audio version beyond the arrival of the much-vaunted letter in Part 3, and while mildly curious to know the outcome, valued my will to live too much to carry on listening. <br/><br/><br/>

Would you recommend The Narrow Road to the Deep North to your friends? Why or why not?

Not in this version. <br/>

Would you be willing to try another one of Richard Flanagan’s performances?

No

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Really thorough research and convincing exploration of the Japanese viewpoint.

Any additional comments?

Only the second audio novel I have given up on in eight years.

28 of 32 people found this review helpful

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  • Youngstuts
  • 11-28-14

Poor narration of a good book

This is likely to have been a good book. However, the narrator was monotone and and draggingly slow in his reading. I even tried to speed up the reading on my iPod to x1.25 in the hope of a more enjoyable listen but this also turned out to be tedious. Such a pity. For the record this would have been my 32 audiobook so I am not a novice.

If it is released with a different narrator I would try again.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Mikey
  • 10-20-14

Had to quit. Awful narration.

Any additional comments?

Despite the previous negative review I read, I thought I'd give this book a go all the same, I took a risk with it. Besides, any booker good enough to win the man booker award surely can't bas a narrated as poorly as it had been reviewed.. could it?<br/><br/>Well you know the answer. A real shame, I gave up after two hours. I could't stand the monotonous drivel that I was listening to, I could barely hear what he was saying as it was all mumbled. He sounded like a guy you would see hunched over a beer glass in a bar mumbling to anyone that will listen.<br/><br/>So disappointed as I wanted to give this a go. I couldn't bear to give the story rating any less than what It would have probably been with a decent narrator. Robert Glenister would be perfect!

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Barbara
  • 10-25-14

Its brilliance stands out!

This is a beautifully written book. The mellifluous flow of the language counterpoints the horror of the content. The author reads the book in a virtual monotone which entirely suits the subject matter. The words speak for themselves. It was heart rending, poignant and moving. My only gripe was the swipe made at British officers but I wasn't there so cannot really say if they behaved as badly as depicted or not. Certainly the later chapters dealing with the aftermath from the Japanese point of view showed that the author is even handed and fair so maybe we do need to revisit the British part played in this terrible theatre of war.
I had not heard of the author before but will be searching out his other works; along with many others I suspect as he recently deservedly won the Booker!

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Miss A L Smith
  • 10-21-14

A good story but not a good listen

Would you try another book written by Richard Flanagan or narrated by Richard Flanagan?

I might be tempted to try another book by this author so long as the author is not the narrator.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Narrow Road to the Deep North?

I found the experiences of the PoW inmates and that of their Japanese captures interesting, inspiring and heartbreaking.

How could the performance have been better?

This really did need a professional actor who could separate and bring to life each character. Richard Flanagan's narration was monotonous and lacked passion.

Did The Narrow Road to the Deep North inspire you to do anything?

This book is a lesson for the the whole of mankind on the evil of war and the depts of cruelty and evil that one group of people is capable of inflicting on another.

Any additional comments?

This is a good book that has sadly been very let down by the narrator.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Eoin
  • 07-20-15

Spectacular

Any additional comments?

Bleak, brutal, yet often warm and heartbreaking. A beautifully written novel of our helplessness ,the callousness of life, and the decades long memories of searing pain left by love, war, and lies.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • 05-08-15

Going to read the book - can't listen any more

This book is brilliantly written but can't stand the monotone reading so am going to buy a hard copy and read it instead. I wish Richard Flanagan had chosen to get a professional to do the narrating. I've dropped off to sleep every time!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Candice
  • 05-12-17

Terrible narrator

The narrator really ruined this book for me
Worst ever, I'm not sure what they were thinking, monotone voice with lots of little full stops

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-05-17

terrible narration

terrible narration. ruined the whole story with drab monotone and weird pausing. very jarring. don't recommend

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Daniel
  • 03-03-16

Okay but failed to live up to the hype

Probably much better read off the page, the narration was often monotonous and struggled to convey the emotion and feeling of the writing. The story while insightful failed to engaged me with any of the characters. I much preferred Death of a River Guide

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Miss Rebecca Crouch
  • 12-28-15

Heart breaking and important

A moving amalgamation of Australian Prisoner Of War stories captured by the Japanese. Beautifully written and well read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-11-17

A great revelation of the tough conditions

experienced by our dedicated and selfless warriors. Very hard to comprehend just how difficult it was.

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  • Kortin
  • 09-21-17

Public Hero, Personal Anti-hero

Would you listen to The Narrow Road to the Deep North again? Why?

I have found a lot of satisfaction gained through repeated listens of this book. Although written in a straightforward manner, the complexities of each character deepen per listen; which owes to the author's narrative skill, insight, and delivery. The main protagonist, Dorigo Evans, is a deeply troubled man who, like characters created by his beloved Homer and Tennyson, seem destined for an ill-fated journey. Yet we learn that it is Dorigo's nihilism, his flawed behaviour, his apathy and his selfishness, that shapes his life and the pain he causes to himself and others.Juxtaposed is Dorigo's experience in the brutal Japanese concentration camp, where he is seen as selfless and heroic, a 'big man' amongst other soldiers. And after the war, where he is publicly celebrated as a hero, he finds himself carrying on this heroic myth for the sake of others. This book discusses themes of virtue, responsibility, cultural patriotism, while layered within the horrors of war and the pain of personal failures. Yet there are many moments of beauty within this novel, and that I feel is the story's greatest gift, to immerse you in moments of pure wonder, whether it be during a conversation shared on a bed, or a brief sunlit moment on a street corner. Although there is no redemption or resolution, there is still much beauty to be found within the pathos of Flanagan's characters.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Darky Gardiner, for his optimism, his decency, his consideration for others, and his humour. Darky sang to me, long after he was unable to sing. For that reason, Nikitari and the fish shop was a particularly difficult episode for me. Yet their hasty and emotionally driven act of vandalism also captured the deep care and friendship these ex-POW soldiers had for Darky.

What about Richard Flanagan’s performance did you like?

Richard's emphasis helped express the intent of meaning at times. I particularly liked his reading of the conversations between Colonel Kota and Major Nakamura.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

A world of dew and within every dewdrop a world of struggle.

Any additional comments?

With a fascination for Greek myth, Dorigo's character is the embodiment of how myth can shape the individual, whether it be through the inbuilt baggage of private beliefs, or perceived public expectations. This examination of how myth, ideals, and national perceptions can shape individuals and nations are the themes I enjoy most in Australian Literature. Authors such as Kim Scott, Kate Grenville and Alex Miller reexamine the Australian identity by exploring our history, helping to subvert nationalistic tropes and bring to light some of the ambiguous morality embedded in our culture. Ironically, it is often through fiction that we are able to address the gaps in Australia's complex past and face up to our own mythologies. The Narrow Road to the Deep North does not contradict Australia's image of the war hero, but it does explore the myths of heroism and hints at the entrapment that such myths may cause.

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  • Stan
  • 05-23-17

Powerful story

This tale built around the life of a Burma Railway POW enters the minds of many of its characters beyond the central one. It is episodic and achronological. Above all in it's simple and vivid use of language, it is brilliantly written and well read.

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  • Robin
  • 12-18-16

Aussie Digger

If you could sum up The Narrow Road to the Deep North in three words, what would they be?

heart wrenching

Who was your favorite character and why?

no favourites - all unique

Which character – as performed by Richard Flanagan – was your favourite?

no favourite - all unique

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes.

Any additional comments?

Thank goodness the author narrated this epic historical tale himself. Of course he knew the work intimately and his voice epitomised the Australian diggers who the story revolved around. The understated Aussie humour, even in the face of severe adversity, was a feature that I was familiar with and the revelation that the author drew from true stories his father told him made this epic novel even more sobering.

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  • Keegan
  • 08-01-16

Listen to on a faster speed for best experience

Listen to the story on 1.25 speed or 1.5 speed for the best narration. Amazing story with an incredible narrative. Poetic and legendary.