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Showing posts from April, 2014

The Train to Paris

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Over the weekend, I read Sebastian Hampson's debut novel 'The Train to Paris'. The premise of the novel was appealing: a young traveller (Lawrence) meets a French woman (Elodie) at a train station and his plans to get back to Paris are delayed; an adventure unfolds. The front cover has a wintry, black and white image, a scene from the end of the novel, one assumes after reading. It was only when I got home that I read about the author, a New Zealander born in 1992; at this point the aging author in me became both jealous and suspicious - a combination of the worst traits of Lawrence and Elodie, perhaps. I read the first few pages and began to scoff at the unlikely meeting and the stereotypes of the French. I kept reading, however, and found the novel engaging on a number of levels. First, the dialogue and relationship between the two characters and the shady third wheel, an American pornographer named Ed, was engaging and true to itself. The settings were well imagined, on…

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

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I have just finished reading Richard Flanagan's latest novel, 'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' and thought I would write a few lines about it, while it's fresh on my mind. What follows is not so much a review as a few thoughts and observations.

Flanagan knows how to write about suffering, and sometimes this is not easy to read. For example, in this novel, the Australian POWs (Prisoners of War) are deep in the Siam jungle, building an impossible railway as part of the Japanese war effort. In one scene, a character named 'Darky Gardiner' (on account of his Aboriginal heritage, we discover late in the novel) is beaten relentlessly and without reason, already a broken man, dragged from the hospital to appease some loss of face between the commandant and a visiting official. The commander, Nakamura, has left the scene but comes back, surprised that the beating continues in the dark (he hasn't ordered it to stop), '[Darky] ... no longer looked like a man,…