Great stories, told simply, are powerful – and the story of Eric Lomax (the Railway Man) is exactly this. I have not seen the film, starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman; rather (and possibly better) I recently read Eric Lomax’s book, and I found it both moving and inspiring.
The story is now well-known: as a child, Edinburgh-born Lomax developed a passion for locomotives and railways, and with dreadful irony was later, during the course of WWII, forced to work on the infamous Burma-Siam railway. He was tortured terribly when his captors suspected him of being a spy, and years later, having survived, he sought to track down one of his tormentors. His tale is as much about this journey as about any of the other journeys detailed in the book.
Books like The Railway Man remind us not to forget the shocking realities of war, which are so easily muted by time or glossed over in the media to protect our sensibilities. Possibly, too, we have become far too inured to these horrors through video games and films which trivialise or glorify violence; stories like that written by Eric Lomax dismantle our nonchalance. War, torture and cruelty continue to fragment societies across the world, destroying the lives of individuals, families and communities – if we forget or deny this, we are ill-placed to resist and counter their advance.
Most especially, though, this book is testimony to the power of human endurance and of the human spirit. In reading the chapters, we are drawn into an understanding of intensely strong resilience in the face of almost certain death, and of incredible resilience as the author learns to transcend the evils he has encountered, and to forgive.In The Railway Man, the reader is reminded too that each life is rich and unique, and is to be valued. We have much to share and learn from one another, and when we do so we in turn become uplifted and empowered to be better versions of ourselves.
It goes without saying – it is a book worth reading.