This is one of the finest books I read this year, and at the same time one of the hardest. I spent many days trying to navigate my way through the book, not because the language or the style were difficult ( which well in fact sometimes were), but rather because the story itself was appallingly graphic. It revolves mainly about Dorrigo Evans, a medical officer in a POW camp, and his time during his and his army’s imprisonment. However, the story, which begins with Evans as an old man, weaves also stories of love, war and loss. All this mixture is an immensely gripping.
The narrative wasn’t linear, therefore, the reader needs to pay close attention to follow the plot. Although I found the so-many-chapters assigned for the days at the camp exhausting to read ( I know they were important to the story, though), the detailed descriptions were incredible as they masterfully portrayed the bleak image of humanity. Again, as in most works about WWI-II, Flanagan tries to show how did the war affect people, the captors and captives alike, all were victims. Flanagan writes shortly, but concisely about the Korean/ Japanese officers’ childhood. He wants to show that in such a flawed world, all were victims. Not only that the post-war trials were a charade, showing how corrupt politics is. In the later chapters I believe that the writer succeeds brilliantly to deal with this topic through presenting multiple perspectives.
I wasn’t interested AT ALL with the romance between Evans and Amy. It was not well-written, it was kind of boring. Although she is key to understand Evans, I found that nothing in her interests me, I can’t -as a reader- understand what is the secret of that love. The diction of the book was captivating, but somehow during the romance scenes the diction was oddly distant! More oddly, Amy’s and even Ella’s parts seem coming from a different book, as I couldn’t relate them to the war’s days. These two parts seems so rejecting to the narrative and the book, and to the reader, too !
Despite being a flawed hero, I couldn’t but sympathize with Evan. Like Hamlet, Evan’s hesitation what makes him lose all his chances. He was trapped in a lonely marriage; he was a hero, but still lacking all joy in life. His hesitation, and even Amy’s hesitation, to walk side by side ignoring each other after all these years deprive them from the only chance of happiness they could have known. Life is too short to miss these chances, to spend hours, days, months and years trying to find the perfect moment; the perfect moment is NOW.
This is not a book about war, it is a book about what does it mean to be a flawed human in such a world; it is a book about all these confusing emotions we feel everyday; it is a book about chances, and their loss. As I mentioned earlier, reading this book was a difficult journey, I contemplated quitting in the middle of the book, where the days in the camps stretched to a killing pace, but fortunately I completed it. I really recommend this book for everyone…( expect to be beaten on every level while reading this book!)