George Orwell – 1984

This was one of the most impressive books I have ever read. It was also one of the most depressing (along with anything by Kafka). I read this in January of 2011 at the old age of 25 because in my school we never had to read anything. We were encouraged to but there was never any required reading and I felt way behind everybody else in not having read this classic for so long. Also, it being a popular book read in schools, I assumed it would be hard to plough through but it really wasn’t. Orwell’s specific horror made me race through this book in a matter of days. If you haven’t read it you should. Right now!

NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR
by George Orwell

Published: Signet Classics 1950 (1949)
ISBN:0451524934
Pages: 326
Copy: paperback

My rating: 10/10

First sentence: It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell’s narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.

Winston Smith lives in a world without freedom. The four Ministries – the Ministry of Peace, Plenty, Love, and Truth – control everything. Big Brother is watching you! For younger readers, or people who don’t read in general, it may be interesting to know that this is where Big Brother comes from. Being watched any time of any day and judged if you take so much as one step in the wrong direction, is a quite chilling perspective. This father of all dystopias is as terrifying – if not more so – now as it must have been when it was first published. If we look at our world today and how willingly we publish the most private details about ourselves, about our habits and preferences (think Facebook), this book gives you an incentive to question your own behavior.

From the very first page, I plummeted into this novel. It has something of a traffic accident quality to it – terrible and scary but you kind of can’t look away. Discovering Winston Smith’s world and how the government is controling everybody in it, is at the same time a pleasure to read, simply because it is a well-written book, and eye-opening in a very uncomfortable way. Ideas such as doublethink or newspeak scared me more than Pennywise the Clown ever did. But the modification and simplification of language to keep citizens in check is only one of the things that took my reader’s breath away. The seemingly random rewriting of history to suit the government’s current needs was another. If the country is now at war with Oceania, it is made clear that it has actually always been at war with Oceania – even though that’s not true.

People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word.

Chapter 1

I could go on and on about all the little details and the big ideas that make this such a monster of a book. But apart from all that, it is an incredibly well written story. The plot shows us how Smith wants to break out of this world and that he’s not the only one. Orwell gives us the slightest bit of hope which keeps us going and rooting for Smith to find something better than a world with though police.

It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children. And with good reason, for hardly a week passed in which The Times did not carry a paragraph describing how some eavesdropping little sneak —  ‘child hero’ was the phrase generally used — had overheard some compromising remark and denounced its parents to the Thought Police.

Chapter 2

I cannot recommend this book enough and I’m quite angry with myself for waiting so long to read it. After a year-and-a-half, the imagery is still as vivid in my mind as it was when I first read the book. I find myself jokingly using words like doubleplusgood, I find myself questioning my lifestyle – and that currently acceptable by our society. Even if you hate the plot, even if you don’t sympathise with Winston Smith, this novel does one thing above all else. It makes you think! I assume that’s why it’s so widely read in schools and I hope it will continue this way. Any friend I have, avid reader or not, I beseech to read this book. It won’t make you happy and it won’t make you feel good, so reviewing it in summer is maybe not such a great idea, when everybody wants light, fun reads. But I don’t care. Whether you’re 13 or 83, if you have a shred of curiosity in you, if you think the world is not perfect and if you want to share this vision of a man from the 1940ies: Read. This. Book.

THE GOOD: A great, an important novel, full of chilling ideas, plenty of food for thought and a great plot, well written.
THE BAD: It won’t exaclty leave you happy. There might be a post-book-mourning period afterwards.
THE VERDICT: Everybody should read this book. If my children aren’t told to read it in school, I will rave about it so long that they’ll want to read it, too. One of the most impacting books I have ever read.

RATING: 10/10 A truly magnificent book!

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8 thoughts on “George Orwell – 1984

  1. Joachim Boaz says:

    As long as the post-book-mourning period is a thoughtful one 😉

    I agree wholeheartedly with your review except for a major issue I have with the work — it’s extremely similar to the earlier dystopic novel, We (1922), by Yvengy Zamyatin. Orwell had the audacity to claim that his predecessor Huxley plagiarized We in Brave New World, if there’s a culprit, it’s Orwell. There are ministries, numbers, women with distinctive colors (red sash in We is a yellow dress)…. The end is the same. etc. This has bugged me ever since. We was published in England when Zamyatin fled Russia and Orwell 100% read the work and was “inspired” by it… He made it more “realistic”, lest fabulist, but kept the general plot very much intact.

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    • Dina says:

      Thanks for that! I do have “We” waiting on my TBR pile and friends of mine have recommended it for “people who liked 1984”. But I didn’t know that it was published first. If it’s anything as good as Orwell’s work, then I’m sure I’ll love it.
      And I’m always one for credit where credit is due. I can see my reading resolutions dying here because I’ll have to move “We” up the soon-to-be-read list.

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      • Joachim Boaz says:

        In format/tone it’s drastically different — more of a fable told in diary format. But it’s gorgeous. A delightful piece of literature — people live in glass houses, the city has a glass wall, but — there’s a woman who changes our hero’s mind and of course, the state wins in the end. I still can’t believe that Orwell accused Huxley of plagiarism! His own work is MUCH more like We!

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  2. Vlad says:

    Great conversation guys!! The book 1984 by George Orwell has been recommended to me by a friend of mine whose taste in literature I tremendously respect. After reading your chat, I decided to get both ‘We’ and ‘1984’. Many thanks to both of you.
    My ‘all time favorite’: Franz Kafka – The Castle. Absolutely brilliant!!

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    • Nadine says:

      Hey Vlad. So great you’re picking up 1984.
      I’ve only read “The Metamorphosis” by Kafka and loved it. But, like Orwell, Kafka isn’t an author I’d read on a lazy Sunday afternoon. And I wouldn’t read two Kafka novels in a row – that’s simply too depressing. But I’ll try and pick up “The Castle” soon, I must have an old paperback copy lying around here somewhere…

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  3. lynnsbooks says:

    Wow, 10/10. I think I will add this to my classics list – it’s No.1 (in other words I have 49 more books to choose)! Any help of course gratefully received.
    Thanks
    Lynn:D

    Like

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