‘Hidden away in the Record Department of the sprawling Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skilfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, the symbolic head of the Party. In his longing for truth and liberty, Smith begins a secret love affair with a fellow-worker, Julia, but soon discovers the true price of freedom is betrayal.’
‘1984‘ is a novel I’ve avoided for a long time. It’s the sort of famous work that almost everyone has heard of and most people have a vague idea of what it’s about, whether they’ve read it or not. I think, considering it’s such an important and well respected book in the canon, that I’ve always thought it would be a difficult book to read. I considered it as one of those books that it’s better to read at school because you can study it properly and fully understand everything Orwell is trying to get across. The thing is though, I was unbelievably wrong. This book is probably one of the easiest books to get through I’ve ever read.
Not that it was over simplistic or bad, just that Orwell is such a fantastic writer that I didn’t feel as though I needed to fight to understand him at any stage. It was all there, clearly written on the page in black and white. In fact, it was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I have to be honest, reading ‘1984‘ was the most fun I’ve had reading a book in a while. The story of Winston Smith was so engaging and the world so realistic and, to an extent, inviting, that I honestly couldn’t put the book down. It’s the quickest I’ve gone through a book in a while and it was no struggle to sit down for hours on end and just read. Lately I’ve been having trouble keeping my attention on anything for more than around 20 minutes but this book had be so absorbed and entertained that 20 minutes wasn’t nearly long enough.
Everyone knows ‘1984‘ as some form of dreadful prediction and warning of the perils of the seemingly impending totalitarian society. It’s difficult to pay attention to the news without some form of reference every now and again to a situation being ‘positively Orwellian’. And if I had a penny for every time I heard the phrase ‘1984 was a warning, not a blueprint’ then I’d be considerably better off than I am now. The thing is, one of the reasons the book is so well known is not just because the world of Oceania struck a chord with us, but that anyone reading the book can recognise aspects of the Big Brother government in their own which adds huge layers of meanings while reading the novel. For myself, I was struck by the Ministry of Truth and their control of the media and the past. The famous Winston Churchill quote, “history will be kind to me for I intend to write it”, was swimming round my head during every scene at Smith’s desk.
Basically, I loved the book. Really loved it. It’s easily become one of my favourite books ever. And not just because I love the idea of dystopia v. Utopia and stories that show how a change of government/ideals can lead to such a vastly different society. The argument of whether the Party would be able to succeed in their long term plan, or whether Winston’s desperate assertion that human nature would right itself and cause the downfall of the Party could really work is fascinating. Not only does this novel manage to deal with complex but exciting ideas, but it does so with realistic and interesting characters all while being beautifully written. Orwell’s world is so well rounded and palpable that when you’re reading the book you feel as though you were really transported there.
It’s an absolutely stunning book that I know I will return to many times. Very thought provoking and a clear example of the very best of British literature.