Sunday, May 6, 2018

Book Review: The Railway Man by Eric Lomax

As a book recommended by some publication (don't remember which one) that covered something to the effect of "books about WWII that you should read" or similar this work should have been better.

Not that it isn't interesting or contain a remarkable series of events...its just not that compelling a read.

By that I mean the author does not have his own voice.  Anyone subjected to the awful series of events he was--captured by the Japanese, put to work near (not on) the Burma-Siam railway (of Bridge on the River Kwai infamy), tortured by the Japanese secret police, imprisoned in some of the worst hell holes of POW note, and years later reconnecting with one of his interrogators (not torturors as the book often erroneously states and is put forth to be as this interrogator was just inquisitor and translator, never putting a hand on the author)--could have retold this work.  Again, not that it isn't a remarkable retelling, but its simply that, not a "work".

Little analysis nor much "art" here.  Placing a tape recorder in front of the author and having him simply give his biography would largely result in the same.  Further, his interest in railways and trains as a youth and then his tangential "work" on the Burma-Siam railway does not come off as an effective thread by which the work can be connected from beginning to end.  It comes off forced and not valuable to the tale...distracting more than anything.

None of this is to take away from Eric Lomax's internal fortitude in the face of awful conditions, brutal torture, absence of hope, etc.  He deserves all the credit he received for having the courage to persevere as well as to forgive his former captor.  His retelling of these events just does not amount to an engaging read or shed light on heretofore unknown events.

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