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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wednesday, 4th March - The Narrow Road to the Deep North, chosen by Je

From the publisher:  "A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love."

Paperback 467 pgs
Audio book: read by David Atlas

What we Discussed:

  • We talked about Richard Flanagan - his background,  books he has written (a few of us have read other books by him, eg The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Wanting, Gould's Book of Fish ..... )

  • We were interested to hear about how Flanagan wrote the book.  His father who was in WWII under Commander Weary Dunlop and was taken as a Prisoner of War on the Burma Railway, experiencing the hardships and atrocities of the war. 

  • We noted that Flanagan's brother,  Martin Flanagan has written a children's book, based on his father's life called Archie's Letter: an Anzac Day Story.  We looked at a copy of that book too and found it was beautifully written.

  • We discussed the various places that the book was set and also looked at a map of the Burma Railway, also some pictures taken, both old and in recent times.

  • We talked about the characters and how their lives were shaped in the context of the novel, also how their actions affected each other. 

  • We felt that The Goanna was an interesting character.  We discussed his actions and also how awful it must have been to have been put through some of the horrible atrocities of war.  We found an article about Flanagan's inspiration behind the real Goanna

  • Some of the actions of the characters were questioned and discussed. (We do not want to give too much of the book away by mentioning it here!)

  • We looked at drawings from two of books by War artists, Jack Chalker (Burma Railway:Original War Drawings) and Ronald Searle (To the Kwai and Back)


(in this link we think) that  the real setting of the camp: (based on where Flanagan’s father was) is described as:

“Dunlop Force, commanded by Colonel E. E. “Weary” Dunlop, arrived at Konyu, in Thailand, from Java in January 1943. It was divided into two battalions, each 450-strong: O battalion (commanded by Major H. G. Grenier) and P battalion (commanded by Major F. A. Woods). Dunlop Force was the first group of Australians to reach the southern end of the railway. Captain J. L. Hands commanded A battalion (337-strong), and the Dutch R battalion also came under Dunlop's command. The force eventually moved to Hintok.”

From section on Thailand – there is also a map (d force) that shows the location of Kinshu and Hintok 

Archie's Letter by Martin Flanagan  (A great book for children)

Burma Railway : Original War Drawings by POW Jack Chalker

To the Kwai and Back: War Drawings 1939 - 1945

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