Author: George Orwell
Date Finished: 28/05/13
Re-Read? : First time read
Overall: 4/5 – rather good
It seems like so long since I last posted about a book (I read The Code Book recently, but I don’t usually post about science reading) but now that it’s half term I have had a few more hours in the day to play with. Although using reading as a was of procrastinating probably isn’t particularly conducive to good exam results, it is better than just watching the French Open all day, right?!
I have three exams left out of six – chemistry physics and my final maths exam and I am just trying my best to keep up the revision motivation until the end! I will really be tested when I go on my annual church weekend away for the weekend before my maths exam!!
Anyway, back to the reading! 1984 is a re-read for me but I first read this rather powerful novel back in 2010 when I was only 14 so I expected to have a different experience this time around. I think last time, I probably only focused on the plot and trying to keep afloat in the world of Ingsoc, Newspeak etc. Now I am much older (maybe more mature?) and definitely more educated – I have, since then, studied the rise of extremism in Europe and how the fear of communism drove westerners crazy. Hopefully, I have appreciated some of the more subtle points that Orwell made this time.
In terms of the plot, 1984 is totally unique and despite the 3 year gap, the main story had stuck with me. This is quite an endearment because usually I can only remember the very basics about a book. This also meant my attention could focus deeper into the story. I don’t want to spoil the plotline for people who haven’t read this yet (you should!) but the inevitable discovery by the Thought Police came to me this time as quite a strong point – it is the point where the book deviates from the ‘norm’ in my opinion – there are so many books about individuals trying to fight oppression and they are almost always successful! Not in 1984. Throughout the book, even as a reread, you can’t help but have hope that Winston will find a way of successfully hiding his rebellious thoughts whilst surviving and it takes until the very end for you to realise Orwell’s point – there is no hope and no possibility of maintaining ‘bad thoughts’. Never have I experienced such a perfect embodiment of a state of mind into a book!
The characters are quite sparse in 1984 but the ones we do get to know are very well detailed. Julia is a breath of fresh rebellious air, and O’Brien is never really understood. The book is definitely about one man’s (Winston’s) struggle against the state and it is him whom we really know even though the book is in the third person. I would’ve preferred slightly more storylines and definitely more characters to read about – really for how much detail the book crams in, it is quite short and I would be quite happy to read another 100 pages!
The prose is very eloquent and the sophisticated and extensive range of language often contrasts nicely with the use and description of ‘Newspeak’ in a kind of juxtaposition which I liked a lot. Despite the sometimes verbose language, I did not find it a struggle to keep up with the book and I think this shows how much I have improved as a reader over the last couple of years. The setting is very haunting to us in Britain and I wonder if this book can ever really have the same impact in other countries. To see London becoming faceless and dull is awful and makes Orwell’s point hit home – this is what left wing totalitarianism means. On the other hand, the ‘red scare’ was obviously a lot more prominent in the USA so maybe at the time, this book spoke more to people on that side of the Atlantic. Obviously, I don’t know the answer, but I do know that 1984 is a brilliant, thought-provoking read and essential for a well-rounded reader! Put it on your reading list if you haven’t already!