I’m sure most people are familiar with or at least have heard of the film adaptation of The Railway Man by Eric Lomax, featuring Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman and Jeremy Irvine as the young Eric Lomax. It’s a story of courage, forgiveness and love. In the book’s Introduction, the two screenplay writers, Frank Cottrell Boyce and Andy Paterson pay tribute to Eric Lomax who didn’t live to see the film’s release, although he’d been on set during filming.
The autobiography is the subject of our book club discussion this month. It’s the second time I’ve read it, even though some passages are as difficult to read as the film’s visual images are confronting to view. I found it a compelling read, even though I was nauseated by the descriptions of tortuous cruelty and revolting conditions inside the prisons. The movie audience can’t fail to feel the pain suffered by the POWs at the hands of their captors, but Eric Lomax’s personal account takes us into the added unrelenting torment of his mind - the effects even worse than the physical nightmare his body endured, which almost killed him. It would be unexpectedly, many years later that a sense of peace finally comes to his mind and heart.
The author's account of an unimaginable time that affected so many people is an important story, as Colin Firth pointed out after meeting with 91 year-old Eric Lomax, because it portrays the decades of silent, post-war suffering and the damage caused to loved ones, but not being truly able to share the memories or understand the extent of their anguish. This wasn’t an unfamiliar experience for so many of those who served in wartime and their families, like my own father (born the same year as Eric Lomax) who trained in Canada and Britain for the Allied raids over Europe.
Although my train trips today are very short, maybe one day I’ll take a trip down memory lane on the “Spirit of Queensland" which has replaced the Sunlander ( 1953-2014).
It was interesting to note that as well as A Railway Man, being filmed in Scotland and Thailand, there were also scenes of railway yards in the Queensland town of Ipswich, where many Queensland train engines began their chuffing days.