Friday 14 October 2011

Orwell October: Coming Up For Air

My review for this book originally contained one word: BORING! Having spent a few days thinking about it, I can't think of any more words that are appropriate for it, because I really got very little out of this book. It is boring, and honestly, I expected more from you Georgy. Its basic message is that you can't go home again- something which by now seems like a hackneyed sort of message and one that is self-evident- that, no matter how hard you try, you can never recapture your youth, and things can't go back to how they were because the world spins ever onwards.

This is something that becomes clear to George Bowling, the 'hero' of the book (I resent calling him a hero, because he's really pretty boring and irritating), when he attempts to go back to his childhood town and go fishing, something which he did when he was a teenager and liked and blah blah blah I really don't care. I might be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that this is the only novel of Orwell's written in the first person, and what a boring person to choose! George (the character) is annoying and boring, and while he feels like he's really interesting and special, he really isn't. While I think there is sometimes some appeal in that in a character (their 'everyman-ness') I was just irritated and bored with George- about half the book is a history of his life so far, and let's just say that nothing has happened to him, other than he's been fishing a lot, and went to fight in the First World War, although all he talks about from that is that he almost went fishing but didn't. Please excuse me while I take a nap so I can cope with such thrilling tales.

I'll admit that the fact that nothing really happens might have something to do with the idea that George lives in the suburbs, and works for an insurance company, and so we can't really expect anything of note to happen to him. But did it really have to be pointed out in such a tedious way? George has this brother who runs off, and I almost want to find out what happens to him instead, but his story would probably just be a reprise of Down and Out in Paris and London, so I'm good without that as well. I'm actually struggling to say anything much at all about this book, because there was just nothing much to it- all fluff, and nothing much else.

Oh, ok, there is one thing. So George is all freaked out about the onset of war (which actually happened like 3 months after this novel was published, vastly different to the 1941 that is predicted about 20 times in it) and keeps imagining a future where either the fascists or the communists have taken over, which in the end leads to the same thing: "the after-war, the food queues and the secret police and the loudspeakers telling you what to think..." and somewhere else it says things about the slogans and the big faces staring down at you, and I don't know about you, but that all sounds like the seeds of the idea for 1984 to me. Which is sort of fascinating to see as the beginning of the idea for that masterpiece, but on the other hand, it's still not worth reading this book to have. Especially because I've just told you about it, so you don't need to!

I think basically, throughout this whole book, what Orwell is trying to say is that things are about to change irrevocably, and he's not sure which way they're going to go, but nothing looks good, and that's why people are compelled to go backwards and try to recapture a time when everything was better, except that that's something you can't really do, so you're always disappointed and just left wondering if anything will ever be good again. That's the sort of the feeling I had about this novel, but knowing that I only have Animal Farm and 1984 left to read soothed me somewhat- no danger of being bored out of my skull with them. So, Coming Up For Air- should have been better. But I will forgive you for boring me senseless Orwell, because I'm nothing if not forgiving to people who are (mostly) geniuses.

1 comment:

  1. Lol. I started this once, I remember very little except that I decided to give up. Well done for finishing though.