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Publisher's Summary

From the winner of Australia's National Fiction Prize, author of the hugely acclaimed Gould'sBook of Fish, comes a magisterial, Rashomon-like novel of love and war that traces the life of one man from World War II to the present.
In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thailand - Burma Death Railway in 1943, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle's young wife two years earlier. His life is a daily struggle to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from pitiless beatings - until he receives a letter that will change him forever.
Moving deftly from the POW camp to contemporary Australia, from the experiences of Dorrigo and his comrades to those of the Japanese guards, this savagely beautiful novel tells a story of death, love, and family, exploring the many forms of good and evil, war and truth, guilt and transcendence, as one man comes of age and prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.
©2014 Richard Flanagan (P)2014 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Lee Chemel on 10-25-14


This beautiful novel justly received the Man Booker Prize this year. A Guardian reviewer said that to call it a rich tapestry gives too much credit to tapestries. Indeed it does. It is, on a simple level, the story of Dorrigo Evans, a Tasmanian surgeon whose horrific experience with his diseased, crippled and dying Australian POWS, slaves of the Japanese intent on building the Burma Railroad for the Emperor, informs the rest of his life.
It is everything I admire in a piece of writing: chilling, deeply moving, brutal and poetic. But so much more.
Toward the end of the novel, perhaps the last hour, I couldn't move. I found myself standing spellbound in my kitchen, grasping a dripping sponge.

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84 of 87 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By B.J. on 11-27-14

On a scale of 1 - 5, this is a 10.

I'm really not sure how to describe this book. The writing is the best I've encountered in a very long time. Every sentence is loaded. Magnificent? I wonder if that actually does it justice. I know that judging it on normal terms simply won't do.

Though I've read a lot of WWII history, I've never read anything this realistic about the building of the Burma Railway. To say the conditions were horrific doesn't even begin to describe what those men endured. It's heartbreaking on an unimaginable scale.

So there you have it: the most beautiful writing about the ugliest of conditions. With that contrast, it reaches you in a way few books ever can. But it's more than a book about POWs or the building of an impossible railway. The topics are HUGE - love, war, death, forgiveness, loyalty, obedience, honesty - and that's just for starters. Flanagan made me look at everything in a different light. I was surprised who earned my respect and who earned disdain.

Every now and again an award-winner surfaces that I think has really earned its praise. This is in that special category. Brutal, yes. But absolutely gorgeous. This really is one very special book.

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67 of 74 people found this review helpful

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