I’m on half-holidays this week – my boyfriend is required(ish) to go to Miami for a continuing medical education conference, and I’ve tagged along. Since he’s at lectures half the day, I’m also working half the day, but the rest of the time it’s all palm trees and beaches and mangroves and alligators! At least, that’s what I’m imagining we’ll get to. So far it’s been mostly wandering around gawking at Art Deco art and buildings.
In keeping with the spirit of holidays, this will be a shorter blog post: a book recommendation! I’m reading The Narrow Road to the Deep North (the second of the three Flanagan books I got for my birthday). It is about war, but in the way of the best war books, it is also about life.*
The main character was a POW during the Burma campaign (the first thing that caught my eye on a related wikipedia page was the rather terse “Axis victory”), and he’s also a doctor, a scholar, a womanizer, an old man, a young man, a husband, a soldier, a human, and perhaps a poet. I’m only a few chapters in, but already I love it (though that’s an inadequate phrase for the experience of reading something so uncomfortable).
None of my complaints about the other Flanagan book apply here. It has all the same good things – rich language, real characters, drama, ideas, and a plot – but it also has what the other book was lacking: restraint. So instead of feeling like I’m being overwhelmed, swamped, by lace and wood and wet Tasmanian weather, with The Narrow Road to the Deep North I feel like… well, it’s too early to tell in summary form. But there is no swamping. I still want more, and have to keep reading to get it.
So, see you next week!
ps. The relationship between war and life in novels always throws a spanner in the works of my thinking about moral psychology research on war versus everyday contexts. Maybe there is no “versus” after all?
pps. Turns out that back when we had a lab blog, in Melbourne, Melissa wrote about this book – I should have followed her recommendation back then.