Dorrigo Evans is the one who keeps the other prisoners of war in the Japanese camp sane, while they labour in wretched conditions to build an impossible railway. He leads them, champions them – fights desperately to curb the death and disease, brutality and despair. When he finally returns to Australia he is lauded as a hero, but finds little to fill the emptiness he feels – perhaps most affectingly the loss of the love of his life, his uncle’s wife Amy.
This was an extremely clever, extremely well written book. I read it on my holiday, so a few weeks ago now, but I’ve still not made my mind up about how the different elements fit together and whether there is any sort of conclusion you can come to. I hope not, as I think that would be simplistic for the complexities at play in Evans’ – and the other characters portrayed – lives. But this is a magnificent interplay of war, weakness, love, culture, brotherhood, cruelty, purpose, hardship – and more, weaving an intricate and intriguing picture of humanity.
After finally getting through my epic pile of books – and a good few more along the way – I found that I was approaching my holiday with nothing to read! Oh no! Cue a trip to get hold of some exciting books to accompany my travels… here’s what I’m reading and why I’m excited!
George’s mum has died, and she’s trying to live life in that reality, balancing her little brother, passionate new friend, father, school and the memories of her mother that portray a complex picture of a person. These tell of the time her mother flew her and her brother to Italy to look at a particular figure fresco in a house in Italy. And she has one question that she keeps asking: can you remember when you’re dead?
Franchescho is dead, but is remembering. An artist responsible for beautiful artwork and frescos on the inside of an Italian house, memories from life, family and love overwhelm the artist as they look upon an unfamiliar world. An unfamiliar world where a teenage girl is collecting pictures of a dead woman.
This book and it’s two completely distinct sections is meant to represent a fresco: two separate pieces set opposite one another. Ready to compare and contrast. A technique that works just ridiculously well. Because you are not here presented only with the meaning, depth and questions of two separate stories (which would have been enough, so deep and intriguing are they both) but challenged again. What can they mean when set against each other?
Rosemary’s life is overshadowed by the disappearance of her unusual sister Fern when she was five years old. Her family was forever changed, her brother ran away a few years later, her mother disappeared into mourning for many months and resentment, blame and mystery surrounds her memory of the past. When she meets a girl at college who reminds her of her sister a series of events begin that start her re-discovery of the events of the past.
This is a marvellous book and a delight to read! As well as exploring the mysteries of human memory and the impact of a distressing event from a young age on a lifetime and family it taught me me things I didn’t know and made me think things I’d never thought. It was a wonderful mix of literary thoughtfulness (shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize after all) and real warmth and humanity.