by Richard Flanagan.
An Australian surgeon in a Japanese POW camp is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s wife two years before.
‘Look after yourself, Colonel. And thanks for everything.’
I don’t know how to adequately sum this book up. It is nearly 500 pages long. It also took me a long time to read it. I don’t consider myself a slow reader but this book was looooong. Its accompanied me on planes, trains…automobiles?! And, as I sit here in the early hours of 14th June 2015 I can now declare I have finished reading this book.
To begin with, I was attracted to the cover (silly, I know!) with its red flower design and white background the colour of faded rice paper. It was also quite heavily advertized in my local Waterstones, and I’m always eager to get new books. So.
To begin with, the narrative of indirect speech got very confusing and to begin with I couldn’t fully immerse myself in the story’s plot arc. Flanagan also gets quite verbose in places which was mostly unneeded. I also didn’t buy into the whole ‘romance’ between Dorrigo and Amy.
Onto the good stuff. When you get into it, the story is fascinating and vividly brought to life. It’s always interesting to read about the existence of the POWs (whether it be fact or fiction!) and this book was influenced by Flanagan’s father’s experiences working on the Line, and from the Australian perspective of the War as well. After the war ends in the narrative as well you see the postwar lives of the characters too. The pacing of this part of the book was a bit erratic but it was interesting to see how those involved with the Line continued with their lives after the war and how they met their own individual ends or how indeed the War had affected their everyday existence. This also tends to make some facets of the narrative a bit stark too.
The non-linear style of the book worked out well ultimately and I did end up crying profusely despite warnings from social acquaintances who had read the book. I highly recommend this book to everyone, with the advice to push through the unpromising beginnings of the book and it will stand you in good stead if you so choose to read it when travelling. The parts of the story set in the POW camp are written very vividly. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this were made into a film soon enough.
MY RATING: **** / *****