Reflections on Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep NorthRoundup
Walter G. Moss is a professor emeritus of history at Eastern Michigan University a Contributing Editor of HNN. For a list of his recent books and online publications click here. His most recent book is In the Face of Fear: Laughing All the Way to Wisdom (2019), which treats humor from a historical perspective.
I love discovering meaningful new books to read. The latest is Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North: A Novel (2014), which is presently being adapted for a TV series. I discovered the book because its author recently wrote an article for The New York Times (NYT) entitled “Australia Is Committing Climate Suicide,” with the byline “As record fires rage, the country’s leaders seem intent on sending it to its doom.” At the end of Flanagan’s NYT opinion piece, we read that he won the Man Booker Prize for his 2014 novel.
Having heard about the Australian fires almost every night on the news—They “have already burned about 14.5 million acres, Flanagan tells us—I learned more about the fires link to climate-change neglect. For example, “The response of Australia’s leaders to this unprecedented national crisis has been…to defend the fossil fuel industry.” Convinced that climate-change denial in one of the greatest tragedies of our time, I liked Flanagan’s essay and also knew that the Booker Prize has been in existence for decades (actually since 1969) and since 2014 awarded to the best work published that year in the United Kingdom and written in English. Thus, I concluded that Flanagan’s award-winning novel was worth examining. Luckily, my local library made it possible for me to borrow a Kindle copy—I love that service—and within two weeks I had finished it.
It was a page-turner. In the best sense of the word. From near the beginning of this 400-page novel until almost the end we wonder about what will happen to the hero of the story, Dorrigo Evans, and his love Amy. On p. 11 we are told Amy was “twirling her finger in his cropped curls as he recited ‘Ulysses’ for her. The room was on a run-down hotel’s third storey and opened out onto a deep verandah which…gave them the illusion of sitting on the Southern Ocean, the waters of which they could hear crashing and dragging without cease below.”
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