Keep the Aspidistra Flying – George Orwell

Orwell is one of my favourite writers. However, as he himself acknowledged, this really isn’t a very good book.

On the plus side, his powers of observation and description are as acute as ever (little things, like an advertising poster with a tattered corner, are rendered in pinsharp detail), but characterisation, never an Orwell strong point, is almost entirely absent. No character has any subtelty whatever. Gordon is, fittingly, a moron (albeit one with a moderate ability to string words together quite effectively). His girlfriend is saintly, although it’s noticable that at 30 and a spinster, the social mores of the 1930s render her a bit desperate. And his mate Ravelston is a quivering pile of bourgeois guilt (and a champagne Marxist to boot).

It’s pretty non-PC in places. Orwell describes the ugliness of a dwarf’s hands (and not even a real dwarf, at that). He can’t excuse this on the narrator, as it’s clear that his own voice is speaking here.

Interesting, if only to put parts of The Road To Wigan Pier, and Nineteen Eighty-Four in context, but as a piece of literature. Meh.

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