Our Favourite Books | ‘1984’ by George Orwell
As a huge Sci-Fi fan 1984 was one of those titles that just begged to be read. It was high up on my list, along with Dune and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? But I was still well into my adult life before I picked up a copy. I have never known a book have such a physical effect on me before or since.
1984 sets the reader down in a damp, dystopian landscape that seems to be at once wholly disturbing and at the same time disturbingly familiar. The protagonist, Winston, also straddles the line between relatable and detestable, very much a flawed hero, but it was always the scenery painted by Orwell that kept me firmly integrated into the story. Airstrip One, in my mind, was a steampunk nightmare in beige and brown, populated with grey individuals; the only colour coming from their clothes or the sash they wore. It is only when Winston and Julia leave their cage, or within their secret den, that true colour can be seen, colour that seems to signify freedom from the oppression around them. I found this darkly beautiful, both the colourless and the colourful.
The pace of 1984 also took me by surprise. There were many times where I felt I had lapsed into a false sense of security, merrily enjoying the exposition and character development when BAM, suddenly I’m with Winston, my heart thumping along with his as the anxiety and horror of our situation becomes too much to bear. Nowhere was this shocking physical connection to the text more prominent for than in the final parts of the book. There was a point when I had to stop reading, for a moment, just to catch my breath. I won’t spoil it for you but I am sure you will agree with me if you read it yourselves.
Then there is the end of the book…devastating. I felt let down, not by Orwell but by myself. 1984 had managed to get under my skin to such an extent that I related wholly to Winston, I felt a part of this disgusting Ingsoc and I couldn’t even put myself on high moral ground to say that I would have done anything differently.
I have read many ‘good’ books in my time, but once in a while you get to read a game-changer, a book that you judge other books by, a book that you judge yourself with. 1984 isn’t just an eerily accurate representation of the way that our society is heading, it’s an open door on the human condition.
And that is why I feel 1984 belongs in the spotlight.
‘Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past’
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, 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.
Available through any good bookstore or online and in eBook form.