An intellectual who did not like intellectuals, a socialist who did not trust the state, a writer of the left who found it easier to forgive writers of the right, a liberal who was against free markets, a Protestant who believed in religion but not in God, a fierce opponent of nationalism who defined Englishness for a generation. Aside from being one of the greatest political essayists in the English language and author of two of the most famous books in 20th century literature, George Orwell was a man of many fascinating contradictions, someone who liked to go against the grain because he believed that was where the truth usually lay. George Orwell: English Rebel takes us on a journey through the many twists and turns of Orwell's life and thought, from the precocious public school satirist at Eton and the imperial policeman in Burma, through his early years as a rather dour documentary writer, down and out on the streets of Paris and London and on the road to Wigan pier, to his formative experiences as a volunteer soldier in the Spanish Civil War. Above all, the audiobook skilfully traces Orwell's gradual reconciliation with his country, a journey which began down a coal mine in 1936 to find its exhilarating peaks during the dark days of the Second World War.
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New Biography of a Great English Writer
I would recommend this book to anybody with an interest in George Orwell.
This doesn't replace Michael Sheldon's biography, but, rather, supplements it. If you have already read the Sheldon biography, this book is still worth reading/listening to; if you haven't read Sheldon this book is a decent substitute.
John Lee is a competent narrator, but as this is a non-fiction book the narration isn't particularly important.
I very much doubt that this book will ever be made in to a film.
If you've read (or listened) to 1984 or Animal Farm, this book is a good survey of Orwell's life and work.
Not a biography of Orwell.
Some years ago I read the excellent biography of Orwell by Bernard Crick, published in 1980. I anticpated this book would present the findings of scholarship in the intervening years. In part it did, particularly with regards to material on Eileen Blair, Orwell / Eric Blair's first wife. The book though clearly was conceived as a literary essay, which then formed the basis of this book. Therefore, if you want a biography of Orwell there are far better books that this. If you are familiar already with Orwell's life, this book is not without merit. Orwell's Englishness and his conception of England is an interesting approach to understanding this brilliant and yet often contradictory of writers. More so perhaps at this time, post Brexit, when once more the concept of Englishness and what it is that defines this nation is to the fore.
- P Garbett