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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.
79 of 82 people found this review helpful
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.
66 of 73 people found this review helpful