Friday, September 14, 2007

Orwell's 1984 -- A Book Review

A few weeks ago, we were watching Jeopardy, and one of the questions was about George Orwell's 1984. I said, "I really should read that one of these days." A few days later, we were at a tag sale and Beth spotted a paperback of the book for a buck. So she bought it for me. Now I've read it, finally, quite a lot of years after I should have done. I had read Animal Farm a long time ago, but I had just never gotten around to reading 1984. Now I'm sad that I let it wait for so long.

So I provided one of my little capsule reviews to the book store on Wednesday. But since the blog allows me to spend as many words as I want, I'm going to publish a somewhat longer review here:

Stylistically and structurally, Orwell's 1984 is a masterpiece. In addition, it is a triumph of imagination. Orwell imagined a world so thoroughly as to make it seem less a fictional setting than an alternate reality. His book, while fairly short, is as complete as could be hoped for. The novel is brutal, unpleasant, and offers no hope of a happy ending. Despite these characteristics (or perhaps because of them) the book is utterly satisfying. It left me satisfied, perhaps, in a way that no other book I've ever read has done.

Entirely without suggestion, Orwell got me to wonder, at first idly, and then more and more desperately, what was really going on. The big question: What's going on outside Oceania? More pointedly, is there really a war happening at all? (Perhaps Oceania is really no larger than the island of Great Britain, and perhaps it is merely isolated from, rather than in conflict with, other nations.)

Just when I could barely stand the strain of this question, Orwell asked it. And then he answered it. Having done so, he then answered it yet again, only this time from what seemed a much more trustworthy source within his narrative. And then the twist: He systematically stripped away all of that source's legitimacy. And finally, the master stroke... Orwell did to me exactly what the Party does to its members: He left me with only one possible conclusion--a logical checkmate, in which I was absolutely forced to accept one harsh truth: If the Party says there is a war, then there is a war. Beyond that, there is nothing. Whatever the Party says is absolute truth.

The upshot: Orwell converted me from reader into participant.


If you haven't read this book, I suggest you do. It's amazing!

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