Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell

There are many reasons why joining a book group can be so much fun and I am actually planning on posting more on that next week. For now though I will just mention the fact that one of the things that I started a new book group for was that it would make me read books I normally wouldn’t, books I have always wanted to try or books that I am a little bit intimidated by and challenge me. George Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four was one such book (intimidating but always wanted to read) and it was the choice for last months book group and brought out some major procrastination in me as it seemed immense, it probably didn’t help I did Animal Farm at school and hated it.

1984 (I am not going to write Nineteen Eighty-Four every time as will be a long post and my fingers may bleed/be worn to stumps) was originally written in 1948 and is Orwell’s idea of what the future could be in a world 40 years on. What is amazing with this book is just how much of what Orwell thought might happen actually has, in fact it is quite worrying in some ways.

The story of 1984 is told through the eyes of Winston Smith a member of the Party working for the Ministry of Truth in London the capital of Air Strip One (once Britain now really an additional part of America and the superpower Oceania). The story starts with Winston’s act of crime as he starts to write a diary something deeply criminal and forbidden in the totalitarian world in which he lives where the eyes of Big Brother are everywhere. Once taking part in this act of rebellion and ‘thought crime’ Winston knows he is ‘dead’ it is simply a matter of time as to when the Thought Police will get him because once you rebel they know, Big Brother knows everything nothing escapes his eyes.

Once Winston commits the crime he tries to throw himself into the path of The Brotherhood the rebellious underground criminals who want to see Big Brother’s demise. Along with Julia a girl at work who he commits another heinous crime with, the act of sex for enjoyment and falls in love with, they give themselves up to fighting Big Brother but how long can they go unnoticed and can anyone truly beat Big Brother and The Party? I could tell you but most of you have probably read this, and those of you who haven’t shouldn’t have the ending spoilt.

I loved this book, I thought it was marvellous. This was something I was very grateful for as I left it until the day of book group to start it (thank heavens I am not working at the moment) and once the first page was opened I genuinely couldn’t put it down. Oh, apart from the book within the book which I found decidedly dull but still went through anyway and it was a minor blip of twenty pages. This book falls into so many genres as it could be labelled a thriller, it’s a classic and of course falls into the science fiction category which I sometimes have problems with. Not in this case though.

This book was so beautifully and sparsely written despite being a dark book with quite a depressing and cloying subject matter it didn’t weigh me down or depress me. It did make me think and things like Orwell’s predictions of terrorism, Newspeak and even the Lottery shocked me by how accurate they are in the now. I could actually rattle on about all the subjects Orwell picked upon for hours and hours but that wouldn’t be very interesting for you. Suffice to say I thought this book was amazing and I am now going to have to rearrange my readers table so that this classic can be on it.

It has made me wonder if I should re-read the books I was given and detested during my schooling years such as ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘A Room With A View’ the latter in particular sends a shudder of dislike down my spine, I didn’t like my sixth form college very much is all I will say. Now along with ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ this Orwell novel has become school taught classic, though I missed both and now as an adult reader I have loved, I wonder if I would have at school?  Thinking about it probably not as if I had been made to read and re-read 1984 at school I would have probably ended up hating it. Reading it for book group was another matter and was possibly my favourite discussion so far… more on that next week though.

What are your thoughts on 1984? What other Orwell is great to read? Which books did you study at school so much you just ended up not liking them? Which ‘school taught’ classics have you missed and want to read or have read as an adult? Should I try Animal Farm again?

26 Comments

Filed under Books of 2009, George Orwell, Penguin Classics, Review

26 responses to “Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell

  1. novelinsights

    Ooh, nice review and you’ve reminded me I need to do mine. What a brilliant discussion last night I thought it was a brilliant choice. Yes you should try Animal Farm again but read either Down and Out in Paris and London first – I loved it and it is a different kind of thing but still with his brilliant writing.

    • Thanks Polly Pootle. I thought last night was actually the best book group discussion yet really, really interesting I could have gone on and on! I think will have some Orwell space for a while after the amazingness (not a word but is one now) of 1984. Then I think Down and Out may be the way forward.

      • Down & Out In Paris And London is incredible. It was one of my favourite books last year, and my edition has a funky cover!

        I can’t honestly believe that it’s a true story… is fantastic.

  2. I am amazed that you managed to read this in one day – it is so deep that I had to read little sections at a time to be able to absorb it all properly.

    • I think as I was up from seven and as I had absolutely nothing to do there was a lot of time to read the 300 pages and pause for a coffee or tea when I felt it was getting too much, or pop on here etc. I couldnt read a book like that straight through. Plus was very fresh in my mind which was a bonus.

  3. How did I manage to get through school without reading 1984? I read A Room with a View for the first time two years ago and loved it!

  4. This is one of my to reads and I want to read it even more now.
    Don’t seem to have read that many classics at school for which I am upset about. We did read To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men I loved both. We over read Romeo and Juliet, I like Shakespeare don’t get me wrong but every year for 5 years it came back out in class, I wanted to die inside a little bit. I should know it word for word by now.

    • We just did Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare too and I dont rate him… I know its an outrageous thing to say but it all bored me to tears! Of Mice and Men I would like to read and Lord of the Flies.

      • I like to watch Shakespeare, reading it isn’t what it was meant for in the first place, I would argue you don’t understand it properly till its on its feet.
        Lord of the Flies is on my list to read as well. Of Mice and Men is very good, probably the only book I read at school that I really got into.

  5. Zee

    I read 1984 in school and loved it. Then I read it earlier this year for a class in sociolinguistics and loved it even more. I remember hating the book inside the book as a teenager but found it less annoying this time around. I find it a fascinating book with so many interesting things to say. Here is what I had to say about the book earlier this year: http://readinginthenorth.blogspot.com/2009/01/book-review-1984.html

    • Maybe had I had this in my english lessons at school then I would have enjoyed it as I think To Kill A Mockingbird could be disected to death and I would still love it! A lot of the group loved this all the more the second time round and I am certain its one I will read again.

  6. I never had an issue with studying a book intensely at school, which I why I went onto further study of literature. I found my earlier years of Uni did suck some of the joy out of texts – the most striking example being Jane Eyre, which I loved as a girl but no longer do. As my studies progressed and I had more choice in what I read, I enjoyed it more, although of course there were books that I still disliked.

    Two of the books I read at Uni at one point were Orwell’s A Clergyman’s Daughter and The Road to Wigan Pier but I don’t remember much about either. I would like to read more of Orwell’s non-fiction.

    • I think maybe it was a mixture of the books the teachers and me at school having said that I got A*’s in both English Language and Literature so it cant have been all bad.

      I still havent read Jane Eyre and I must.

      I have a book all about Orwell I am now quite tempted to read but maybe I should read more of his fiction first!

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  8. I’m so glad to hear that I’m not the only one who thought the book within the book was dull. I just recently read 1984 and in my review referred to that part as “so boring that I thought my eyes were going to dry up and pop out of my head.”

    I did, however, really enjoy the rest of the book and am glad that I finally read it. Like you, it was one of those books I was too intimidated to read, but it turned out to be quite accessible.

    • The book within the book was dull, very dull. We actually discussed this quite a lot at book group as a few of us couldnt see why it was there (did you know in America they tried to take it out) as Orwell sets the history up previous to The Book really well in subtle moments, but maybe back then he wanted to spell everything out?

      The rest of the book as you say is amazing!

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  10. When you guys started your book group, I was jealous of all of the UK bloggers who lived close enough to go. But since you’ve seemed to picked some of my most hated books (Bell Jar) and now this, I’m actually glad you’re 8 time zones away from me.

    Here’s my review:

    http://bibliofreakblog.com/fiction/1984-iby-george-orwellibad/

    • Oh dear thats a bit of a negative comment. With that attitide maybe we are glad you are 8 time zones away hahahaha. Seriously though not every book at a book group should be a book you love, thats partly the point and having people who both love it and hate it really adds to the discussion.

  11. Well, I finally got around to reviewing this today.

    I’m so pleased you liked the book… I’m in awe of Orwell’s talent. I’ve since read his “Coming Up For Air” , which was written about a decade before 1984, and it’s interesting to see some of the seeds of the latter book in the earlier one.

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