Book Review: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Title: 1984
Author: George Orwell
Published: 1949
Genre: Modern Classic – Dystopian

Synopsis: Winston Smith works for the Ministry of truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent – even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101 . . .

 My Rating: 8igbk4dbt8igbk4dbt8igbk4dbt8igbk4dbt8igbk4dbt

I had to think about this review, really think about it. This is a timeless book which has been reviewed by people far smarter than me and more eloquent, I’m sure. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell is what can be called the first dystopian novel, published in 1949 to a world still reeling of WW2 and coping with the decent into the Cold War. It was apropos then yet incredibly relevant today because of the technological advancements which have trapped us in such a way that it makes it possible for us to be spied on constantly. The entire book is a social critique but it is also a warning, a ‘don’t let this happen, kids!’ that Orwell shouts at us from the grave.

Given the political climate (and really what sort of bullshit is that statement, ‘political climate’? while families are being separated and lives upheaved we say ‘political climate’), 1984 has suddenly risen to #1 seller, 70 years after published. So we have to ask ourselves; why do we go to 1984 for some sort of guidance? Having not read it, I thought it was this hopeful novel that would show me how to beat the oppressors but that is not what 1984 is about. Having read Animal Farm quite a few times, this follows the same sentiment. It’s a resounding statement of ‘It’s done. We’ve done it to ourselves and now we have to live with this bullshit.’

If you don’t know (like I didn’t) 1984 follows an actual plot and that is our narrator forming a sort of mental resistance against The Party, a totalitarian regime that controls Oceania which is the combination of the Americas and UK. The world has become 3 massive super-powers and they are constantly at war with one another. But we focus on our narrator, Smith, who finds a diary and begins to secretly record his dissent. He grows bolder, buying a beautiful paperweight and having an affair with a younger woman. The thing is that you know he’s going to get caught, you know it’s not going to end well, yet you still root for him. You root for him until the very last sentence of the book, you believe he’s stronger than the Party because he’s representative of humanity. So I had to walk away from the book and really reflect on why I rooted for him until the very end, why I had hope until the end and I realized that my reaction is the reaction Orwell wanted us to have. He wanted us to fight and struggle against everything both physically and mentally. Because the narrator is representative of humanity we essentially root for humanity and for the human condition. We don’t want to be controlled, we don’t want to be broken, we want to live even in the small space inside of our head where no one can touch us.

So, I don’t want to spoil, but I left the book angry which I don’t think I’ve ever done. Not angry at the book, it was spectacular and I annotated the fuck out of it but angry with humans because we’re so self-destructive. Needless to say, I strongly feel that people should read this and I completely understand why it has stood the test of time. This is not a light read, I had to walk away from it and take bits at the time because I was getting anxiety but well worth the journey.


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