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Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

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January 2012 Guest Editor Simon Lelic selects Nineteen Eighty-Four...

Not exactly an original pick, I realise, and some (irrationally, in my mind) would dispute its literary merits. On the other hand, it has proved almost Shakespearean in its impact on the English psyche – and certainly on mine. I read it first for GCSE English, and I still have the copy I should probably have returned to my teacher at the end of the school year. Which makes me worry now that perhaps I have deprived someone else of the pleasure. I’m including it here as penance, but also because I couldn’t not.

The Lovereading view...

Chosen by the public through a survey to coincide with the 10th birthday celebrations of World Book Day 2007, this title is one of ‘the ten books the nation can’t live without’. Have you read them all? Below are links to each title and position on the list.

1. Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre Charlotte Brontë
4. Harry Potter JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights Emily Brontë
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations Charles Dickens

If you like George Orwell you might also like to read books by Anthony Burgess.


Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

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.

About the Author

George Orwell

Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) was born in 1903 in India, where his father worked for the Civil Service. The family moved to England in 1907 and in 1917 Orwell entered Eton, where he contributed regularly to the various college magazines. From 1922 to 1927 he served with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, an experience that inspired his first novel, Burmese Days (1934). Several years of poverty followed. He lived in Paris for two years before returning to England, where he worked successively as a private tutor, schoolteacher and bookshop assistant, and contributed reviews and articles to a number of periodicals. Down and Out in Paris and London was published in 1933. In 1936 he was commissioned by Victor Gollancz to visit areas of mass unemployment in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) is a powerful description of the poverty he saw there. At the end of 1936 Orwell went to Spain to fight for the Republicans and was wounded. Homage to Catalonia is his account of the civil war. He was admitted to a sanatorium in 1938 and from then on was never fully fit. He spent six months in Morocco and there wrote Coming Up for Air. During the Second World War he served in the Home Guard and worked for the BBC Eastern Service from 1941 to 1943. As literary editor of the Tribune he contributed a regular page of political and literary commentary, and he also wrote for the Observer and later for the Manchester Evening News. His unique political allegory, Animal Farm was published in 1945, and it was this novel, together with Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which brought him world-wide fame.

George Orwell died in London in January 1950. A few days before, Desmond MacCarthy had sent him a message of greeting in which he wrote: ‘You have made an indelible mark on English literature . . . you are among the few memorable writers of your generation.’

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Book Info

Publication date

29th January 2004


George Orwell

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Penguin Books Ltd


Paperback (b Format)
400 pages


Literary Fiction
NewGen - YA Fiction
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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