Life according to

Richard Flanagan

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler book cover


On love and marriage

'All these conversations about love, continued the pretender, just nonsense. There’s no need for love. The best marriages are ones of compatibility. The science shows that we all generate electromagnetic fields. When one meets a person with opposite ions aligned in the right direction, they're attracted. But that's not love.
What is it then? asked Dorrigo.
Magnetism, said the pretender.'

- The Narrow Road to the Deep North

On the meaning of life

'Life is the cruellest of boxers.'

- Death of a River Guide

On parents

'It is the parent's job to parent, he would say to her, and their job to live. And having said that, he would try to hide his frustration, and would have to look away from her face so he would not focus on the tip of her nose. But I agree with you, she would say. I couldn't agree more. If a parent doesn't parent, what are we here for?'

- The Narrow Road to the Deep North

On money

'When forging money, I had always salved my conscience by concluding that I was merely extending the lie of commerce.'

- Gould’s Book of Fish

On death

'He could not eat his last meal. If he ate his last meal, it would be his last meal. If he did not eat his last meal, he could not die until he had. Perhaps there would be other meals until he agreed which one would be his last. But he did not agree with this last meal. A last meal was an agreement with the inevitability of his death. And he did not agree with his death.'

- The Narrow Road to the Deep North

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Richard Flanagan


Forever after, there were for them only two sorts of men: the men who were on the Line, and the rest of humanity, who were not.

In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Burma Death Railway, surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.

This is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.

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