by Richard Flanagan
Library Journal One of Australia's most celebrated authors, Flanagan has garnered multiple awards for his fiction (Wanting), nonfiction (And What Do You Do, Mr. Gable?), and directing (The Sound of One Hand Clapping). He has an uncanny ability to write literary prose with journalistic exactness set against cinematic landscapes. Taking its name from a collection of haiku poems by Matsuo Basho-, this novel is set at the end of World War II in a Japanese POW camp. Australian prisoners, led by physician Dorrigo Evans, are assigned the grueling task of building the Thai-Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway and famously depicted in the film The Bridge on the River Kwai. (Flanagan's father had been a POW and worked on the railway.) Amid daily violence, disease, and death, both the prisoners and the guards search for a sense of normalcy as they remain duty-bound to hierarchy. As the war ends and soldiers return to civilian life, each struggles to find meaning outside the routines of imprisonment. Dorrigo, in particular, has trouble reconciling his status as hero with the unshakable trauma he's experienced. VERDICT Utilizing prose and poems, Flanagan articulates the silent experiences and fractured memories of war. Not so much for fans of historical fiction, this narrative will instead appeal to the deeply introspective reader. [See Prepub Alert, 2/3/14.]-Joshua Finnell, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list Acclaimed Australian author Flanagan (Gould's Book of Fish, 2002) here gives us surgeon Dorrigo Evans, from his Tasmanian childhood to old age, along the way having been a POW (as Flanagan's father was) on the gruesomely brutal building of the Siam-Burma railroad and having later achieved a fame he feels is undeserved. Flanagan handles the horrifyingly grim details of the wartime conditions with lapidary precision and is equally good on the romance of the youthful indiscretion that haunts Evans. This accomplished tale of love and war could have broad appeal, but the protracted particulars of the prisoners' treatment may put off quite a few readers. Evans performs at one point a major medical procedure under such primitive and inhuman conditions that it will make even tough-minded readers cringe in disgust. Though much of this fine novel (whose title is taken from the Japanese poet Basho) is extraordinarily beautiful, intelligent, and sharply insightful (and even balanced the Japanese captors are portrayed, not sympathetically, but with dimension), it is very strong and powerful medicine indeed.--Levine, Mark Copyright 2010 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publishers Weekly From bestselling Australian writer Flanagan (Gould's Book of Fish) comes a supple meditation on memory, trauma, and empathy that is also a sublime war novel. Initially, it is related through the reminiscences of Dorrigo Evans, a 77-year-old surgeon raised in Tasmania whose life has been filtered through two catastrophic events: the illicit love affair he embarked on with Amy Mulvaney, his uncle's wife, as a young recruit in the Australian corps and his WWII capture by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore. Most of the novel recounts Dorrigo's experience as a POW in the Burmese jungle on the "speedo," horrific work sessions on the "Death Railway" that leave most of his friends dead from dysentery, starvation, or violence. While Amy, with the rest of the world, believes him dead, Dorrigo's only respite comes from the friends he tries to keep healthy and sane, fellow sufferers such as Darky Gardiner, Lizard Brancussi, and Rooster MacNiece. Yet it is Dorrigo's Japanese adversary, Major Nakamura, Flanagan's most conflicted and fully realized character, whose view of the war-and struggles with the Emperor's will and his own postwar fate-comes to overshadow Dorrigo's story, especially in the novel's bracing second half. Pellucid, epic, and sincerely touching in its treatment of death, this is a powerful novel. 50,000-copy first printing. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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